Augmented reality has enough gee-whiz dazzle to make a visit to “Now You See It . . .,” at Boston Cyberarts Gallery, simply fun. The best works also have conceptual traction. For each, something in the real world triggers images on a tablet’s screen.
Aim the viewfinder at the gallery’s tile floor to see Will Pappenheimer’s “Waters Rising.” A female superhero appears. Water fills the gallery, immersing her (and, by implication, us). The woman, toting a fur-covered sword and a shield, dodges and slashes at gem-like floating boulders and parakeets.
The effects are terrific. Holding the tablet, you can break the water’s surface and dive under. But what is “Waters Rising” about? Arty nods to Meret Oppenheim (the fur) and Marcel Duchamp (one of his rotorelief patterns on the shield) seem more obligatory than meaningful, and the flood is a flimsy omen of climate change: The heroine apparently has subaqueous powers, and at the end of the sequence, the water drains from the scene.
Michael Mittelman’s “AR. Lewitt,” has more to chew on, contending fondly with a patriarch of conceptual art. Select from a menu of Sol LeWitt’s instructions for wall drawings, and colored lines crawl over a wall and two pedestals. Lewitt might have balked at virtual space’s cheats, but delighted in the technology.
Other pieces suggest peering through a lens to discover a previously invisible layer of reality. Joseph Farbrook’s “Amorphous Ball” equates our ubiquitous devices with a glossy, floating red blob that swiftly shape-shifts into an ear, a mouth, a television. The piece is a nesting doll of realities — tangible, virtual, metaphoric — we may never get to the heart of.
Claudia Hart’s wallpaper, “The Current,” featuring a real-world grid of computer-coded patterns, sparks blooming flowers on your screen. Their crisp charisma springs from digital graphics’ punchy aesthetic. Pieces such as these raise the question: What is this world that we cannot touch, but that we can steer with a swipe? How seductive is it, and dangerous?
NOW YOU SEE IT . . .
At Boston Cyberarts Gallery, 141 Green St., Jamaica Plain, through May 13. 617-522-6710, www.bostoncyberarts.orgCate McQuaid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.