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IF you’re into virtual reality and augmented reality technology, and have a passion for sustainability and environmental protection, there is an on-going, one of a kind exhibition called MeshMinds 2.0: ArtxTechforGood at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore.

The free exhibition, which run from March 7 to 17, 2019, showcases more than 20 immersive multi-sensory experiences by a new generation of artists who use technology, combined with their creative imagination, to educate people on the effect of pollution, conservation as well as sustainability.

Organised by MeshMinds, which is a not-for-profit arts organisation that is focused on enabling sustainable development through creative technology, the exhibition allows visitors to experience and see how bad the pollution is, especially our ocean and how we can play our part to keep it clean.

From stepping through a virtual portal to help clean a polluted ocean, or imagining the future of our cities through augmented reality, visitors can take part in this ongoing conversation on sustainability through the lens of technology and the arts.

These MeshMinds artists have been working with Apple products and technology including iPad, Mac, ARKit, and VR tool like the HTC Vive which played a significant role in their creative journey and workflow as they developed their apps and augmented/virtual reality experiences.

The exhibits

One of the exhibits called Our Ocean Life by Warrior9 VR shows how polluted the oceans have become due to the huge amount of plastics thrown there.

Warrior9 VR (@warrior9vr) is an immersive media company that specialises in making narrative experiences that are high quality, easily accessible and designed for wide audiences.

To educate visitors on this issue, the artists use augmented reality technology to create the experience where visitors will invited to step through a portal by wearing a VR head gear and uncover a story about the consequences of plastic pollution on marine life.

Inspired by real events, this interactive experience aims to leave visitors with a sense of wonder about life beneath the waves, and emphasises why our actions matter more than we realise. Visitors can also download Our Ocean Life on App Store to use at home.

Meanwhile, a group of artists and graphic designers who call themselves DPLMT (@dplmt_) has created an interesting and colourful artwork called The Mount That Keeps Growing. It is an augmented reality experience that uncovers the reality of the world’s waste situation, represented in this showcase as a mountain of trash that keeps on growing.

What’s interesting about their artwork is how they use a Malay folklore known as Puteri Gunung Ledang to show the challenges people have to face in cleaning the pollution.

They use a big artwork to show the “Puteri Gunung Ledang” and the pollution surrounding her.

Just like the folklore where the princess gives impossible tasks to the Sultan who wants to marry her, the artwork tries to portray the almost impossible task we are facing in cleaning our environment.

To experience the artwork, visitors need to use their smartphone to scan the QR code by the side of the artwork to be mesmerised by a series of rhythmic, hypnotic kaleidoscopic motifs.

On closer inspection, however, visitors will see that the beautiful artwork is made up entirely of waste materials. Capture and share a video of yourself and pledge to #saynotosingleuseplastics.

Sustainable cities and communities

For 3D world builder, illustrator and visual artist André Wee (@andre_wee), he uses his iMac Pro, 3D rendering, iPad Pro, Procreate and Spark AR Studio to come out with an artwork called A Better Tomorrow. Visitors need to your smartphone camera to scan the QR codes and watch the digital drawings of buildings in Singapore come to life and learn how they can contribute towards the creation of a more sustainable future through clean energy, recycling and reduced reliance on fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, artists Adeline Tan aka Mightyellow, has created an artwork called Water Bodies, which is an interactive virtual reality installation that highlights the encroaching presence of microplastics in our drinking water.

This experience begins inside a virtual human stomach, in which tiny marine creatures, tardigrades and copepods, are swimming amongst multi-coloured microplastics, all of which were rendered to 3D and animated by The Acid House.

The experience is a 60-second game where visitors have to shoot the microplastics to learn more about the plastics that we unknowingly consume. Finish the game, and take a pledge to dispose of plastics responsibly, or join the Bring Your Own movement.

Tan, who created her artwork using iPad Pro, iMac Pro, Procreate, HTC Vive, Unity, is an illustrator and visual artist based in Singapore.

Interactive games

The best way to teach the young on reducing pollution is via interactive games, and that’s what Jason Loo and Cherlyn Mark have done.

They created OceanScrub, which is an interactive mobile game that encourages players to cultivate the habit of reducing waste.

In this case, the player will play the role of Ambassador for Ocean Protection where he or she will guide sea creatures – the Ocean Pals – through polluted waters to safety and prevent them from consuming plastic waste.

The player needs to collect as many points by eating the right kind of food and avoiding life-threatening plastics.

Meanwhile, for the work or art called Experiencing Beauty by nature-led artist Lucinda Law, visitors will get to see the documentation of the flora and fauna she encountered on her expeditions during her artist-in-residence programme with the environmental scientists at Tengah Island Conservation at Batu Batu, a sustainability-focused private resort off Johor, Malaysia.

MeshMinds then added a layer of interactivity and engagement by using Spark AR Studio to bring her illustrations and expedition journals to life. The mixed-media artwork highlights the importance of protecting our biodiversity while encouraging greater exposure to the beauty and sheer magnificence of nature. Through this, it is hoped that we may all discover a greater reverence for the beauty of nature to create positive impact to restore the natural world and our well-being in this shared environment.

Climate action

Artist Andrew Loh created a multi-part interactive augmented reality installation called Hold My Gaze that draws attention to the consequences of forest fires that have caused hazy spells blanketing Southeast Asia in recent years.

You need to position their face in front of the iPad Pro and hold your gaze with the virtual face – representing your children and your future – on-screen. With face mapping technology, you can interact with the child whose face is masked with a beautiful rainforest. But look away, and you will find the forest on the mask bursting into flames.

This showcase is an allegory on the potential disasters that will befall our forests – and us – if we look away from the importance of preserving and protecting what greenery we have left. You can also download the Hold My Gaze app on the App Store.

This can also be experienced on your smartphone on a more personal level. Scan the QR code to watch your own face transition from a beautiful rainforest to a devastating forest fire. Capture and share your video to Facebook and pledge for a life that is #BetterWithForests.

Tech and art work

What the artists have shown with their creations are some of the potentials of technology in arts. As tools and new emerging tech like VR and AR move forward, we can expect more interesting creations, especially in promoting conservation and sustainability.

In addition to the exhibition running from March 7 to 17, there will be Everyone Can Create sessions each weekend, where attendees are invited to ignite their creativity with drawing, music, video, and photography on iPad, using Apple’s Everyone Can Create syllabus.

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