There are a number of virtual reality apps that take art fans inside famous museums. But they require headsets and often have limited scope for allowing viewers to craft their own experience. Now, a new augmented reality app for Apple’s iOS is letting art lovers step inside the Los Angeles studio of a well-known visual artist, as well as literally walk through some of her three-dimensional VR pieces.
The app, known as 4thWall, showcases the multimedia work of artist Nancy Baker Cahill in two distinct ways. Cahill has spent the last year developing art in VR–360-degree pieces that seem to spread throughout a room and that headset-wearers can walk through. With the new app, anyone with a recent iPhone can do the same, visualizing one of her pieces and virtually walking through it as they physically move around with their phone, and, just as interesting, superimposing the pieces on any environment they want–a living room, a park, a foyer, and so on.
If a viewer chooses not to walk around inside the art piece, they can also use the app’s teleportation tool to move around it and find a different angle, Cahill explains.
She believes no one has previously translated VR art pieces into augmented reality, essentially creating the effect of being in a 360-degree environment even as you merely look at your phone’s screen.
At the same time, 4thWall allows viewers to teleport themselves into Cahill’s Los Angeles studio and inspect many of her distinct drawings. The idea here is that fans of her work can virtually visit her studio no matter where they are in the world, and it can be dynamically updated to reflect new pieces, or the removal of those that have been sold.
“I’ve been interested in expanding this idea of access to an artist’s creative space,” Cahill says, “but also access to this work. To experience it in VR, you need a headset. In this way, it democratizes the experience, and offers definition or understanding of public art. It gives people agency to think about how they want to experience art.”
The idea, really, is to give viewers the ability to curate their own art-viewing experience–and allows them to take still imagery or videos of that experience as they move through her 360-degree pieces or walk around her studio, all while using the new app.
The app experiment is “important to the art world because it’s the ultimate extrapolation of public art and puts you, the viewer ,in charge of where it goes in public or private,” Jessica Rich, the curator of the IF Foundation, told Fast Company in an email. “And on top of that it’s unexpectedly fun.”
For now, 4thWall is strictly dedicated to Cahill’s art, but she acknowledges that other artists could employ the same technology–by working with her developer–as a way of showcasing their own multimedia art. “Eventually, it can be, and probably will be” available to other artists, Cahill says. Now, “this is specifically [about] my work, but there’s no reason why other artists” wouldn’t want to offer their own fans the same kind of anywhere/anytime access.