Last week, Ace Hotel’s cozy gallery space opened its latest exhibition, Blastosphere: Digital Art Becomes 3D Fashion. The room was packed with a throng of hotel guests, tech bros, garden-variety art snobs, and Cool Girls. Appropriately situated as a sort of second entryway to the hotel’s Opening Ceremony gift shop, visitors crowded near the tiny self-serve bar stocked with wine. An amalgamation of fashion, technology, and art, the exhibition was a collaboration between three artists, new media site NewHive, online clothier Print All Over Me, and NYC startup Reify.
Blastosphere plays ping-pong with the art, bouncing it back and forth between the virtual world and physical reality. The art objects themselves originated as digital works commissioned by NewHive. Artists Alexandra Gorczynski, Miles Peyton, and Tara Sinn created interactive sites for the multimedia publishing platform that were subsequently translated into the physical world via t-shirts, dresses, and hooded raincoats produced by Print All Over Me.
The cherry on top, and what made this exhibition worth seeing, is the augmented reality technology that Reify embedded into garments. Reify describes itself as a “physical music platform that transforms sound into something we can hear, see and hold.” What exactly that translates to outside of startup language is still a bit dubious, but for the purposes of this project, Reify created an app called Reify Stylus that uses a smartphone’s camera to pick up on patterns printed onto the clothing. Reify founder Allison Wood donned a t-shirt dress with Tara Sinn’s saccharine, Lisa Frank-esque work “Congratulations You’ve Reached the End.” She handed me an iPhone with Reify Stylus installed on it and as I pointed it at the dress, the confetti and 3D spheres printed on the fabric duplicated themselves as moving animations on the screen. In Miles Peyton’s “PartsPartsParts,” fragments of crowdsourced body parts and faces multiplied on a printed sweater, then repopulated on top of each other by moving and twitching on my screen.
Garments were supposedly on hand for guests to try on but it was hard to figure out where to do that in the packed mini-gallery. Unfortunately, the iPhone/iPad app that turned the clothes into augmented reality magic was not ready for download at the time of opening (due to App Store bureaucracy) but was made publicly available a day later. As a result, eager viewers crowded around Wolf and other representatives from the three companies as they pointed iDevices at the artists and others donned in the clothes. Alexandra Gorczynski posed proudly, wearing her creation “UntitledVVV” that manifested itself as a chic raincoat. A spooky technological feedback loop played as guests snapped photos of Wolf’s screen while it made the roses printed on Gorczynski’s poncho come to life.
Gorczynski was refreshingly loquacious in explaining her process and how her contribution to the show came to be. Grinning ear to ear, she described how the classical sculpture references in her work combined with more technological elements, like digital scribbles, creating a dialogue situated on the edge of two worlds. In this way, her work seemed especially fitting for being thrown into this spin cycle of rebirth, where works start off as websites and reproduce and manifest in multiple forms. Like a document in the cloud, the core of the work stays the same but is fungible depending on how you view it. She admitted that not even she had seen the finished product until the opening and was pleased with how the animation and clothing all came together. Clearly a favorite, one of the printed ponchos was hung in a frame near the hotel’s elevators. As I snapped pictures with my phone a cleaning lady making her rounds smiled, “So cool, isn’t it?”
Blastosphere: Digital Art Becomes 3D Fashion continues at the Ace Hotel (20 W 29th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan) through the end of September.