Digital and material reality meet in Troy Innocent’s sculpture
Digital code is the language of modern life, yet very few of us speak or understand it. Instead we look blankly at our smart phones and laptops, knowing that somewhere, hidden in mechanic depths, code is providing us with data, information and experiences. Rather than accepting the naturalisation of digital code, Troy Innocent’s Pattern Recognition seeks to unpack this language by combining sculpture with augmented reality.
At a quick glance Pattern Recognition looks like a series of geometric sculptures. But a closer look reveals that the surface of the sculptures contain digital codes that become activated, or decoded, when viewed through a smartphone or tablet. Via the digital screen, viewers are exposed to a digital layer where Innocent’s sculptures extend and transform.
Rather than drawing a line between the material reality of the sculptures and the digital layer of augmented reality, Innocent argues that the two always co-exist in “mixed realities”.
While Innocent is clearly staging a deliberate encounter between so-called ‘real life’ and augmented reality, the artist sees this meeting as a normal part of our daily experience. “We’re encountering multiple layers of reality all of the time,” Innocent says. “With the prevalence of mobile devices and small screens, we’re constantly negotiating multiple streams of information.” This gives rise to a contemporary experience that straddles multiple realities which, as Innocent says, provides “multiple ways of looking at the world.”
Innocent’s interest in blending digital culture with other cultural languages stems from his background as both a writer of digital code and an artist who experiments with interactive digital art. Innocent takes systems he is familiar with, such as digital culture and data visualisation, and places them in the unfamiliar context of the gallery. This process allows him to present and unpack the language of code in new ways. By connecting people with sculpture through augmented reality, Innocent says his ultimate aim “is to try and get people into the process of being in code”.
For Innocent, the link between digital code and the gallery is also part of a larger link between data visualisation and artistic abstraction. He points out that data visualisation “would not have happened without the history of abstraction in visual art because it draws upon all of those visual codes, such as abstracting things to colours and to geometric shapes.” Whereas abstraction is a process of reduction that aims to find the very essence of something, Innocent sees abstraction as “a multiplier.” As he explains, “Once you start to look at digital abstractions which involve code, they spawn and create multiple possible worlds.”