Art Basel Miami

12.04.13

David Datuna Creates Google Glass Art for Art Basel Miami Beach

Tech geeks aren’t the only people trying out Google Glass. One artist is debuting a Glass-based work of art in Miami—in which the viewer looks at art that looks back.

David Datuna's vision for his collaboration with Google Glass via app developers BrickSimple, is, as the title suggests, nothing short of vast: he hopes his "Viewpoint of Billions" will go viral. What artist doesn't?

But in Datuna's case, it's built into the plan.

In the same way that you get an endless reflection when you stand between two mirrors, Datuna’s art concept is to create an echo chamber with technology. First, he's created an artwork that can stand-alone, made of glass frame lenses that allow viewers to see things from different angles, depending on their position. But when you stand in front of it wearing Google Glass and opt in to the special feature, the ricocheting can begin.

The glass frame lenses cover the image of an American flag; embedded behind that are newspaper clippings and photos of American icons, people Datuna describes as different, those who changed the course of history.  Stand in front of the work and the Google Glass app starts playing a clip. But you can't turn your head like Tom Cruise and learn about the next image in your field of vision (or the DNA of fellow art appreciators standing nearby). The sensors have to be lined up just so.

The result is a series of American Civilization highlight reels that play using Blue Tooth sensor technology. I saw Jimi Hendrix. Twice. Then Oprah and a CNN story.

Some lucky viewers can watch the moon "drop" but you'd have to keep standing in front of the artwork and keep shifting your position, almost as though pecking at it like a chicken, hoping to catch a specific morsel.

Despite the novelty of the eyeglasses, it's difficult to see the great difference between using Google Glass with art and pressing the big button at the zoo to learn more about zebras, or listening to the audio commentary wands found in every museum. Without the level of specificity that allows the picture to change wherever your eye lands, the piece forces you to hunt for treasures. This distracts from the artwork itself, which, when viewed without technology, is fun in the way a shadow box display is; you can appreciate tiny icons on their own, like Edward Snowden's face found way down toward the bottom or a tiny TV set.

“While you're watching the art, it's watching you back.”

Datuna, despite this collaboration, seems to agree. "Art is first, technology is second, always," he insists. He says the project is not about the end product itself, but about breaking another boundary, conceptually.

In our endless fascination with ourselves, what this artwork can do is take the self-referential experience of "take my picture while I'm taking yours" and echo it onto social media. While you're watching the art, thanks to not very well hidden small cameras, it's watching you back. You can record your experience, and then share it with friends. 

Det Ansinn, BrickSimple's founder, sees Google Glass's role in art as a practical solution, providing the viewer with additional information. It may be most useful in history museums. 

But sometimes, you just want to stand in front of a work and take it in. 

In a refreshing twist for Art Basel, and despite its alluring title especially for the Google Glass-wearing set, "Viewpoint of Billions" is not for sale.