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When two worlds collide: Street art meets virtual reality

 Virtual reality tech, which was once focused on the gaming world, is now hurtling into other industries, with art proving ripe for disruption.

The use of the VR headsets takes viewers into a world that’s fully curated and immersive, while bringing a fresh perspective to the way art can be experienced.

It’s proven to be particularly harmonious to street art, with various initiatives underway to transform CBDs and create more immersive pieces within galleries across New Zealand.

As part of Tauranga art gallery’s Paradox Inside street art exhibition, running from 28 March until 15 June, a virtual reality experience is on display of Melbourne-based Rone’s artworks.

Rone, an Australian street-turned-gallery artist, painted artworks within several derelict houses that have since been demolished, but a feature film lets viewers experience what he painted, photographed and recorded.

Tauranga art gallery director Karl Chitham says the inclusion of street art and virtual reality art within a gallery helps expand and redefine what ‘art’ is, making it more inclusive.

“We’re bringing in new audiences that wouldn’t normally come into an art gallery, who see it as intimidating,” he says. “It changes the way they think about what an art gallery is. It also changes the way people think about what art is: there’s links to urban culture, community projects, the difference between graffiti and street art, high art and low art.”

Further south in Invercargill, software development company Digital Stock is teaming up with local street artist Danny Owen/DEOW to revamp the inner city district. The idea is as follows: DEOW will create several large-scale works around the CBD, and then locals will be able to download an app created by Digital Stock that makes the art multi-dimensional and experiential.

Currently, the app is still in testing stages in the studio, where DEOW is experimenting with Google’s Tilt Brush VR tool to create 3D art.

DEOW using the tilt brush tool

Once created, it can be exported, converted and added to an augmented reality mobile application, allowing anyone to access it.

Digital Stock system analyst Jim Dowling says at present, Invercargill’s CBD is perhaps not the most exciting – instead, it’s very “classically styled”.

But the app, which is currently in beta stage, along with DEOW’s works, may be able to bring a flourish back to the CBD.

“When an app user looks at several pieces of art he’s worked on through the CBD they will be able to see a whole extra layer of dynamic street art appear right before their eyes,” Dowling says. 

One of DEOW’s previous works in Christchurch

Locals are doing some creative work, he says, but they’re a humble bunch. 

“I feel Invercargill has always been an innovative city, although this is more in the ‘grassroots’ sense – we’re a city that has some extremely talented and creative people in it, although they’re infrequently in the limelight.”

But by using this cutting edge technology, he says the company hopes to get more engagement, collaboration and creativity in the city underway.

“The point of this project is more to showcase some of the cool things happening in the city and encourage more collaboration between the talented locals that often fly under the radar,” he says.

Elly is Idealog's editor and resident dog enthusiast. She enjoys travelling, tea, good books, and writing about exciting ideas and cool entrepreneurs.

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