Unexpected Growth app
“Unexpected Growth,” augmented reality installation, Tamiko Thiel and /p, 2018. Commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art.

On an outdoor terrace at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, visitors get out their phones … not to make calls, but to look at art.

To experience an augmented reality installation called “Unexpected Growth,” visitors download a mobile app. Then they look at their phones to see the terrace superimposed with 3-D images of an imaginary coral reef.

'But the coral reef, on closer examination, is made out of waste.' Click To Tweet

Thiel: “But the coral reef, on closer examination, is made out of waste. There’s plastic bottles, there’s plastic straws, and plastic forks and spoons.”

Artist Tamiko Thiel says she wants to get people thinking about how their actions affect the ocean – not only through pollution but global warming, which causes harmful coral bleaching.

So the virtual corals change color throughout the day. Visitors who come in the morning see vivid colors.

Thiel: “Over the course of the day, as more and more people view it, we bleach the colors more and more.”

Thiel says this kind of interactive art provides an entry point for learning about threats to our oceans.

Thiel: “I’m trying to produce this emotional encounter with a topic that will really imprint it in your mind and in your memories.”

Two phases of app views
“Unexpected Growth,” augmented reality installation, Tamiko Thiel and /p, 2018. Commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photos: Courtesy of Tamiko Thiel.

Filed under: