Experiencing parallel worlds in Concrete Storm

In this first-ever public mixed reality art piece, Studio Drift makes seemingly static concrete pillars come alive through Microsoft’s HoloLens, merging the physical and digital worlds.

Art is often thought of as passive—as something to be seen from a distance by observers rather than experienced in real-time by active participants. But recently, this concept of art as static is being cracked open, thanks to new technology that makes people a dynamic and essential part of a work of art.

Artsy, an online platform for exploring art from around the world, teamed up with Pace Gallery’s Studio Drift, a design firm based in Amsterdam, to create a mixed reality experience in collaboration with Microsoft HoloLens that immerses viewers in an experience where the physical and digital come together as a new parallel world. The result was Concrete Storm (2017), public art work created in mixed reality.

The installation was unveiled at the 2017 Armory Show in New York, where a trio of concrete pillars in the gallery seemed solid and static to the naked eye—until visitors put on the HoloLens headset. The pillars would then nearly quadruple in height and animate, like tree trunks swaying back and forth in the wind. The goal wasn’t to transport visitors to a totally disparate virtual world, but rather to digitally augment their existing world and see it in a provocative new light.

“Feeling present in your environment is a key aspect of mixed reality, enabling you to move naturally, interact, and explore in three dimensions,” says Ben Porter, director of Microsoft HoloLens and Windows Experiences. “These aspects make the entire world a canvas for artists.”

Learn more about Concrete Storm

Woman reaching hand out over concrete pillar.

“Feeling present in your environment is a key aspect of mixed reality, enabling you to move naturally, interact, and explore in three dimensions.”

Ben Porter, director of Microsoft HoloLens and Windows Experiences