Karan Singh is an Australian artist currently based in Tokyo. He describes his work as a ‘playful interpretation of minimalism,’ and this aesthetic has taken him far. For this year’s Sugar Mountain Festival, Singh worked with V Movement and Plattar to allow attendees to have a more creative involvement with their festival experience through augmented reality, using a custom built app.
Hi Karan. You created an augmented reality app for this year’s Sugar Mountain Festival. How did it work?
This year we created a body of art to decorate the physical space in and around the V Movement stage. The amazing thing about this year’s work was that attendees were able to bring the art to life using the Sugar Mountain app. When viewed through their device the art on and around the stage came to life as animated 3D objects which viewers could move around. Think Pokemon Go but trippy art.
What excites you about augmented reality, in terms of its artistic possibilities?
It’s a way of adding an additional hidden layer to your surroundings. In this case the viewer’s experience isn’t limited to simply the physical object – the work reveals itself to them when they interact with it through their device. I think from an art standpoint it transforms the role of the viewer from audience to participant. I think that’s huge because it dramatically changes our relationship with our environment.
What other emerging technologies would you like to work with, and why?
Interactive art is becoming really appealing to me. It’s been great to see people interacting with the work in completely new ways. Previous to working on this, I wasn’t too familiar with AR, but after spending the past six months learning about its potentials, I’d love to create more work in this realm. I think beyond this, the natural progression is virtual reality, where I would love to create my own worlds for people to immerse themselves in.
Your art is quite accessible, even for people with no background or special knowledge. Is this something you aim for? Should art be accessible in general?
From an aesthetic standpoint, definitely. However, I’d say it’s more of a subconscious preference and style rather than a criterion. In a physical sense, art should be accessible for people to view and interact with, but not necessarily in an aesthetic sense. Art is layered and the aesthetic appearance is but one layer. It doesn’t have to be visually appealing to communicate the artist’s intent or trigger a response from the audience, nor should it be.
You now live in Tokyo but hail from Sydney. How has that influenced the way you approach your art?
Traveling often has helped me define the limited essentials I need to surround myself with in a new city. I think these sentiments trickle into my work, where I’m usually drawn to simple compositions and restricted colour palettes. Each city is inspiring in its own way, but I think the sense of movement and curiosity brought about through travel is the my biggest influence.
What kind of artistic collaborations have you done in the music space before?
One of my favourites has been collaborating with OK Go. I heard from their lead singer Damian via Instagram one day a few years back and he invited me to create animated visuals to accompany their live shows across the US. I’d never made animations longer than 10 seconds prior to that but it didn’t stop me from saying yes immediately. There’s been a lot of similarities in collaborating with them and Sugar Mountain. In both instances we’re exploring how we could push the envelope further to create something unique on a larger scale.
Artists, like musicians, are increasingly required to develop sophisticated technical knowledge, especially of software. Do you ever find yourself discouraged by this?
Yes and no. I think continually expanding my skillset out of curiosity rather than obligation has been beneficial in keeping me interested and wanting to push things further. That said you don’t always have to do it yourself — collaborating with others who specialise in their own respective fields often pushes you far beyond what you can achieve alone. For me collaborating is just as important as learning a new skillset and is essentially how we created the art for this year’s Sugar Mountain with the team at Plattar.
Find more on Karan ➫ here