Provoking audiences to rethink their relationship with tech and the environment

Simon Denny: MINE

A man and a woman are looking at wall art in a dark room at the Museum of Old and New Art

Simon Denny: Mine was a technically ambitious exhibition which blended installation and sculpture with augmented reality (AR), visitor interaction and real-time data extraction.

Commissioned by the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), Denny called Mine a “theme park to extraction”, of both the mineral and data kind. Visitors walked around a life-sized version of the classic Australian board game “Squatter” among Denny’s sculptures—giant replicas of machines and products used in mineral mining. A human cage, originally designed for Amazon’s workers, imprisons the critically endangered King Island Brown Thornbill, brought to life via AR.

Utilising and extending the capabilities of The O was essential to bringing Denny’s vision to life. Core to the Mona experience, The O mobile guide replaces wall labels using indoor positioning technology to tell visitors about the artwork on display closest to them. Users can also ‘love’ and ‘hate’ artworks, join a virtual queue for an exhibit and ‘save’ their tour to revisit after they leave the museum.

Mine was the first time The O was integral to an exhibition and not just the supporting act, bringing together artist, curator and exhibition visitors. Its use showed how technology could enhance the visitor experience as well as support an artist’s vision.


Challenge

This project was unlike any we had previously worked on. As Simon put it, “Making exhibitions, for me, is often about a journey. One learns, discovers and pivots as one goes along. If I’d simply executed my first idea it would be a much lesser exhibition.” So we joined Simon on his journey. Denny’s multilayered work required us to display conceptual finesse and technical muscle. Working closely with Denny, we answered the technical challenges of the project without getting in the way of his vision. Ultimately, we aimed to work with the artist and curators—often across international borders and timezones—to create a seamless technological experience that seamlessly complemented the artist’s vision.

An iPod Touch showing an augmented reality experience at the Simon Denny:Mine exhibition at Mona
Screenshot of Simon Denny: MINE augmented reality experience
Screenshot of Simon Denny: MINE augmented reality experience
Screenshot of Simon Denny: MINE augmented reality experience
Screenshot of Simon Denny: MINE augmented reality experience

Approach

Over two-and-a-half years, we collaborated with Denny and the curators on exhibition design, creative conceptualisation and technology integration for the project. We assembled an in-house, multidisciplinary team including a 3D designer, an extended reality developer, and a creative producer, onboarding talent as needed. Some of the technical facets of the exhibition included adding augmented reality capabilities to The O, training a custom neural network in Facial Expression Recognition (FER), and creating 3D models for AR representation through the visitor’s device.

Augmented reality markers at Simon Denny:Mine exhibition at Mona

 

As I became more and more familiar with The O, it became clear that using AR would be a really great option for my exhibition [...] Mine was really the perfect first outing for me in this medium, augmented reality. All the infrastructure was there for me to just focus on content and not be solving technical problems myself that I would have otherwise had to do in another situation.

– Simon Denny,
   Artist

Simon Denny: Mine was the first time The O has been part of an exhibition and not just the supporting act, bringing together artist, curator and tech company. It’s also an example of how technology, when used innovatively and collaboratively, not only enhances the visitor’s experience but can support an artist’s vision.

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3D Render of a King Island Brown Thornbill bird native to Australia

Solution

Bringing our expertise in extended reality and data analytics, we developed AR and facial recognition for The O. This enabled Denny to fully explore the themes in Mine and create a unique and powerful piece of work. We also mined Mona’s real-time visitor data, finding new ways to show visitors what museums can collect about them—adding another layer of discovery and information to the exhibition.

Impact in numbers

  • 448 days Total time visitors have spent in augmented reality.
  • 71,185 Total number of selfies taken
  • 162,190 Total number of visitors who used The O to experience the Simon Denny: MINE
A woman stands in front of an augmented reality marker holding up her phone at the Simon Denny:Mine exhibition at Mona

Acknowledgment of Country (Australia)

Acknowledgement of Country

In the spirit of reconciliation, Art Processors acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and celebrates their enduring connections to Country, knowledge and stories. We pay our respects to Elders, past and present, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

We proudly partner with First Nations people for many of our projects. If you are an artist or organisation with an upcoming project, or you’re seeking work in experience design or creative technology, we would love to work with you.