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Insight: ‘Digital Atmosphere’, a new Augmented Reality experience by Studio Above&Below

Text by CLOT Magazine

Digital Atmosphere, indoors (2020)
Digital Atmosphere, indoor (2020)

The minds behind London-based art and design studio Studio Above&Below are Daria Jelonek & Perry-James Sugden. They founded the studio after graduating from the Royal College of Art in London because they had the vision to create a collaborative and collective art and design practice that pushes the boundaries between speculative design and media art. Their innovative work combines XR, speculative storytelling and digital art to draw together unseen connections between humans, machines and the environment.

How can you create a sustainable art and design practice that makes people think, and that allows you to make a living out of it? How do you convince commissioners to include stories in your art and design projects that raise questions about how we currently and in future will interact with technology and our environment? These questions led them to the name “Above&Below”, which represents the aim to keep the balance between critical blue sky thinking and technological exploration (Above) and reasonable and research-based design work (Below). Daria Jelonek told CLOT Magazine during an interview in 2019

One of their latest projects is Digital Atmosphere, an AR technology and live data inputs that give our environment a voice, makes the invisible visible and create dynamic public artworks.

Digital Atmosphere looks at how technology and art can illuminate the quality of our air, usually invisible to the naked eye, and bring us an urgent step closer to a sustainable, zero-emissions future. At a time when the safety of our air is at the front and centre of our public consciousness, this digital installation is a timely technological and artistic endeavour. 

Studio Above&Below explain that using cutting-edge digital and sensor technology, the sculpture’s Atmo Sensor picks up the invisible change of air quality of the immediate environment, which is translated into an evocative visual simulation, visible to the viewer through the AR headset.

They continue that even if the air looks clear, it is certain that you will inhale tens of millions of solid and liquid particles travelling from one side of the planet to the other. These ubiquitous specks of matter are known as aerosols, which are invisible to the eye but not invisible to our lungs. With Digital Atmosphere, we are investigating a future in which clear air may be a reality by giving nature a voice. The impact of air pollution on our bodies became especially clear throughout the current Covid-19 pandemic. 

Digital Atmosphere is an Augmented Reality experience that plays with digital and physical interaction. The artwork is inspired by investigations into early air pollution devices, including rudimentary ones which used canary birds, and computational flocking systems, sensing, reacting and visualising changes of air quality in a poetic way.

(Media courtesy of Studio Above&Below)
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