New Zealand artist Joseph Michael will bring a "fusion of art and science" to Whanganui's Sarjeant on the Quay with his augmented reality artwork 'Amazon - Raised Up Sky'.
Later this month audiences will be able to experience a 3D presentation of Amazonian trees, as well as a talk from Michael and the screening of a documentary that follows the evolution of his project.
Michael told the Chronicle that the work on display was the result of extensive scanning of trees in the Amazon rainforest, with thousands of photographs being "matched together" into a point cloud.
From there, the images could be used in an augmented (AR) or virtual (VR) reality presentation.
"The platform that I like, and the one that I'll be showcasing at the [Sarjeant] gallery, is augmented reality," Michael said.
"That's slightly different to VR where you put on headsets and it closes you up. With AR it's almost like wearing a pair of sunglasses and it gives you a digital, holographic overlay.
"You can still see the room you're sitting in, but there's a holographic version of a tree in front of you.
"You'll be able to stand in the middle of the gallery space and look up 50 metres to the top of the tree, and because it's a digital image you'll be able to walk right through it as well."
Michael said he got "hooked" on the Amazon after spending six years living in Brazil, and his visual art was usually created through expeditions to remote places where he used technology to capture the "essence of a landscape and translate it into an artwork that people can enjoy and experience".
However, the Covid-19 pandemic forced him to change his approach. With the help of the Latin America Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence (CAPE) he was able to involve audio-visual producers in Brazil who could collect the data and images he needed.
"I was preparing to take a team of 10 to 12 people over to scan huge Amazonian trees, but the pandemic arrived and we couldn't go.
"Instead, I've had to focus more on research, collaborating with various universities in New Zealand and Brazil, and using drones directed from here but using operators on the ground in Brazil.
"It's been frustrating at times, but this new challenge brought about by the pandemic has really transformed my artistic practice."
Five people at a time would be able to see the same digital imagery, which would make for "more shared experience", Michael said.
"With VR you sort of lose your sense of direction, but with this you still have a firm attachment to the real world. This just adds to it.
"The cool thing with this technology is that it's touch sensitive. We can change the digital pixels as you touch them with your hands. That brings a tactility to the digital display."
Michael said he was planning to scan a 2000-year-old rata tree near Whanganui while he was in the area, and was currently working on scanning Tane Mahuta, New Zealand's giant kauri.
Sarjeant relationships officer Jaki Arthur said despite the gallery's busy summer schedule, the opportunity to host Michael's presentation was something they had to fit in.
"This is a really special opportunity for the people of Whanganui," Arthur said.
'We've heard so much about this kind of technology, but we really haven't had any chance to see it in action.
"The documentary, where Joseph talks to indigenous leaders, politicians, conservationists, and ecologists, is also fascinating in its own right."
Joseph Michael's 'Amazon - Raised Up Sky' presentation is on at Sarjeant on the Quay, 38 Taupō Quay, on Wednesday, November 25. The augmented reality work can be experienced at 6.30pm and 8pm, with the documentary and talk at 7pm.
It is free to attend, but booking is essential. Call 06 349 0506 or visit www.sarjeant.org.nz to secure a spot.