While many regard tattoos as an art form in their own right, a new exhibition in Sydney is using technology to take them into the next dimension.
Shifting Skin by Melbourne-based artist Alison Bennett explores ideas around augmented reality and the collapsing boundaries between the physical and digital worlds.
The exhibition is on at Sydney’s 10×8 Gallery as part of the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras visual arts festival.
“We carry around the internet and the virtual world in our pockets all the time so we’re no longer living in a digital dualism where you’ve got the material world and the virtual world and I wanted to explore than in a really dynamic way,” Bennet said.
Bennett captured detailed two-dimensional photographic images of her subjects’ tattoos by using a re-purposed flatbed scanner, after failing to get the pictures she wanted with a camera.
“I actually picked up a flatbed scanner off my desk and rolled it around my subjects shoulders and it just came out with such incredible detail that I was fascinated so I pursued that direction,” she said.
Images of birds, butterflies and even a zombie nurse were then transformed through specially designed 3D terrains.
When viewed through a freely available app on a mobile phone or tablet, the 3D images appear superimposed on the prints, popping out through the screen and moving around with the viewer.
“I was so thrilled because I knew it was possible. I knew this thing in my head was going to work,” she said
“When people see it they often squeal inappropriately and I’ve had people rolling around the floor trying to get around the object.
“It’s almost like engaging in a dance in front of the prints.”
The idea for the project stemmed from a sci-fi novel called Spook Country by futurist American writer William Gibson.
When Bennett tweeted the author about her work it soon went viral, attracting the attention of websites such as the Huffington Post and Mashable, and even featuring on Nigerian television.
“As an artist, to have your work confirmed and recognised in that way was a real confirmation I was going in the right direction,” Bennett said.
Bennett, a third year PhD student at Deakin University has also now been invited to show her work overseas.