Welcome to Alice’s Giftshop!

August – November, 2014
The New Museum
New York, NY

Welcome to Alice’s Giftshop! was a 3 month presentation, From August through November of 2014, in the window and shop of the New Museum, in downtown New York City. It presented a special edition of augmented-reality housewares created specially for the New Museum Store. With the Looking Glass tableware set, literary nonsense is hidden beneath the seamless surface of elegant “museum store design.” The napkins and placemats were inspired by Lewis Carroll’s 1865 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and explore a populist culture so addicted to the devices of high technology that it can only bear a world that is filtered through them. The store window display installation includes also Hart’s augmented reality Nue Morte tableware and a Nue Morte quilt. All of these are works of domestic housewares that also function as participatory objects engaging virtual worlds.

Using a variety of platforms, Hart’s works present two realities: the physical and the hidden; or the dormant and the expressive. The works build a space that is interactive and irrational, navigable using Hart’s custom-designed Looking Glass augmented-reality viewer, using a the free Layar app uploadable online with any smartphone or tablet. The Looking Glass makes visible hidden Alice animated, text-based content. Programmed by the artist, these multimedia objects craft metaphors that unfold using computer-vision, revealing “magical” layers of new information.

With the Looking Glass, viewers can glimpse non-sense, hidden messages culled from Alice In Wonderland embedded in Hart’s special fabric-pattern tags, she has programmed to be viewable through your smartphone or tablet - viewed in the New Museum window through Samsung Galaxy Tab S tablets sponsored by Samsung. Excerpts of Carroll’s text flash on-screen, and augment the geometric abstraction presented as a fabric picture plane. Carroll’s poetic nonsense now appears as strobing, flickering billboard graphics that evoke popup banner ads and trashy web design. A strobing concrete poetry emerges, as a result of haptic communication between the human and the machine.

In the window display created for the New Museum Store, Hart also showed her artisanal plates, in which she first brought the conversation about technology to the dinner table, a site long equated with Feminist strategies. Here, the experience of a feast is disrupted by the virtual world. Delicate paper porcelain, hand-thrown by ceramicist Kimi Kim, the Nue Morte dishes and an Alices tea set, specially produced for the New Museum Store, drew on the visual style and psychological subject matter of early Surrealist photography and film.

The Nue Morte dishes present a naked sleeping odalisque that is viewable using another custom app, the nuemorte. As the plate’s inscribed decorative pattern is recognized with your smartphone or tablet, a sleeping figure tosses and turns, apparently lying across one’s meal. Evoking the early technologies of the peephole camera and the Zoetrope, nuemorte renders a dreamlike subconscious space. The illusory female figure, as well as any food placed on the plate (when functional) is overrun by artificially intelligent insects, which crawl in endlessly mutating patterns.

Also created specially for the New Museum Window was a Nue Morte decorative multimedia quilt, similarly subverting the classic stereotype of so-called “domestic handicraft.” Like the dishes, the Nue Morte quilt reads Hart’s embedded pattern tags, here appearing as decorative patterns on her custom fabrics, viewable with the Nue Morte app. The quilt and table linens were all hand-produced by experimental fashion designer Nao Watanabe.

In 2015, Magic Mirror was additionally created as an important element for Hart's augmented works, an artistic digital looking-glass for the Alices Tea Set and the NueMorte quilt.

Alice’s Giftshop is an artistic frame by Claudia Hart that first appeared in her May 2014 solo bitforms gallery exhibition, Welcome to Alice’s Giftshop. Both emerge from a series of live performances choreographed and directed by Hart, all inspired by Alice in Wonderland. The Alices series premiered in 2013 at The Arts Club of Chicago and was restaged again in Chicago at the Frank Gehry’s Pritzker Center Theater in Millenium Park. The Alices premiered Hart’s Nue Morte dishes, and in Act II, The Alices Walking, Hart introduced her augmented patterns now printed onto custom fabrics and taking the form of wearable sculptures, in an opera-cum-fashion show with music by composer Edmund Campion. The Alices Walking premiered on March 9, 2014 at the Eyebeam Center for Art + Technology in collaboration with the Moving Image Art Fair in New York.

Double Narcissus

Nue Morte, the dish that is the central prop in Double Narcissus, is a porcelain dish on which one can view a naked sleeping odalisque, through a smart phone by using custom augmented-reality software. This sleeping figure tosses and turns, apparently lying across one's meal. Artificially intelligent insects crawl in endlessly mutating patterns over both the illusory figure and your solid, "reality" food.

The technology behind the Nue Morte is a special augmented-reality app for phone or tablet, created to accompany the limited edition plate-set. Once launched and the phone or tablet camera directed towards the plate, the app recognizes a decorative pattern inscribed on the elegant bone china and displays a custom-authored video projection that seems to be a part of your meal. This app is specifically designed to work with the custom Nue Morte plate-set.

Nue Morte imagery is enigmatic and dream-like, adopting the cinematic style of early twentieth-century Surrealist photography and experimental film. The inspiration for Nue Morte was Chien Andalou, the 1929 film by Luis Bunuel and Meshes of the Afternoon, the 1943 experimental film by Maya Deren. My approach to the custom app is to locate it within the media histories of avant-garde photography, film and video just as experimental artists have always worked with new technologies from their initiation, beginning with the development of photography in the late nineteenth century. With the Nue Morte, I draw on the visual style and psychological subject matter of early technologies, from those you see in early Surrealist photography and film, as well as those found in even more media "archeological" technologies such as the peep-hole camera and the Zoetrope.

With the Nue Morte porcelain dish, an erotic transgressive layer of imagery floats in an illusory space across your supper. And just as our dreams arise from the unconscious, augmented projections manifest in an illusory liminal space... the puerile truth behind the sophisticated bourgeois world of interior decoration and design.

Performer: Casey Puccini

Camera: Melika Bass
Double Narcissus, Claudia Hart, digital video + augmented reality dish, 2012, video object with laquered wood frame.