Monthly Archives: May 2010

Augmented Irrationality

by Sally Applin

It isn’t much of a surprise that Augemented Reality (AR) is gaining traction. In the past 7 months that I’ve been following it, AR developer software has been getting more robust, more distributed and there are more and more people using it, and talking about using it to develop applications. In a way, layering information over the world through a visual field to bring contextual information to people can be a great thing. It enhances reality with the data that can support a more contextually and/or historically relevant enriched experience.

Yesterday I was in San Francisco and walking on a pier. A very run down pier. The infrastructure had begun to collapse and parts of it were sectioned off with warnings advising of certain peril. Then, merely a foot away, there were no warning signs and no troubles. It was not hard to imagine what had happened to the pier that it had caused its decay. Cuts in services? No budget for repairing infrastructure? I found myself wanting know true “why” of what had happened to the pier. This was partly out of curiosity, and partly out of a sort of “architectural sadness.”

As I walked along, there were things about the pier that I wanted to identify and couldn’t. It occurred to me, and not more than once, that “An AR app right about now would be great.” It would easily reveal to me the history and significance of the pier and its uses throughout the years. It would tell me why the pier was curved, what purpose it had served in the past, what the best spots on it were for taking photographs of the Golden Gate bridge and Alcatraz Island, and the even the history of The Dolphin Club of San Francisco and why that man was swimming along side it in freezing water without a wetsuit.

Then I thought about it.

Would it?

AR might be an easy way to get at that information, but to get at it, I would likely have to look at advertisements, graffiti, people’s messages to one another, catalog ads, bot profile “suggestions” and who knows what else. (I was already negotiating skateboarders, casting fishermen, segulls and other pedestrians.)

Do I want the sanctuary of my body space, which I now augment with eyeglasses, clothing, and a mobile phone, to get another layer…..of advertising?

“Oh, but AR is transparent!”

AR is touted as a semi-transparent layer over existing data and one of the buzzwords that seems to have been going around for the past few years is “transparency.” It was one of the Obama campaign promise platforms and has come up over and over again in my research. What is “transparency”? Who wants it? In some ways, people are demanding it. In others, the mere fact of getting it–and seeing what is really underneath, is frightening.

In parallel, the world has been getting more, well, cryptic. Opaque. Last night on the Twitter feed, @bruces wrote:

9-11, Enron, Iraq, Katrina, mortgage crisis, bailout, euro crisis, climate crisis, oil spill — we’re led by liars and sleepwalkers. Every major event that hits us is a fake, a fraud, a provocation, a panic or an organized denial — never anything we foresaw or averted. We’re way past the point of rationally managing events and into a business and politics of “lemming retention.”

How much is data augmenting a distraction? If we derail ourselves from the world at hand, we won’t have to see what “piers” are crumbling. The more we are distracted, the more those who remain opaque can, and will continue to practice their opacity.

The disasters that Sterling refers to aren’t happening to those who are building and shaping AR.


The people with good jobs in the computer and data industry who are on the edge of the next technology wave are employed, as people are rushing to build and deploy AR software, entertainment and advertisements. For them, Augmented Reality will enhance reality in the same way that I wanted to just simply “learn more” about the pier. That said, for those whose reality has just been augmented without choice, through disaster or corporate or political oversight, (or hey, all three) it creates almost the opposite experience.

My questions:

How much do my brain and body want to fight it out?

Would money be spent to describe the history of something rather than actually preserve its usefulness?

If my brain continues to be “enriched” what is the cost to not only my body, but to the collective bodies of all of us and the space that we inhabit?

Trend: AR is on its way. For now, it will be your choice whether to augment your reality, or to look deeper into what’s left standing and determine how to augment that, instead.

©2010-2014 Sally A. Applin. All rights reserved.

Walt Banksy and Magic Mister Brainwash

by Sally Applin

“Exit Through the Gift Shop” is Banksy’s confession about commerce. Most people who see the film know that Banksy is behind Mister Brainwash. This is an attempt to understand why.

The basic plot of the art film is about a Thierry Guetta, a French videographer, with a OCD video disorder that compels him to film everything.

Guetta films the “Street Art” scene, following it for 10 years, which culminates with his meeting the reclusive artist Banksy.

In the film, Banksy encourages Guetta to make the Street Art documentary that he had talked of making for the past 10 years. When Guetta finally does make the film, Banksy dismisses it — referring to it as something like “a basic channel changing ADHD nightmare.”

As a result, Banksy encourages Guetta to become a street artist on his own and to have a show, while Banksy makes the documentary.

“Exit Through the Gift Shop” is the film that Banksy made about Guetta’s pursuit of a “career” as a Street Artist.

Guetta hocks his possessions and hires talented graphic designers, artists, set-builders and others to create art for him. In doing so, Guetta creates a post-modern Warhol factory–churning out an inventory of pop-art manifestos. The pieces are described as the end result of Guetta’s imagination running wild.

Piece after piece of art emerge in the worst mash-up of all commerical styles: there are classical paintings with gas masks, pop-figures depicted as Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe, giant matchbox cars, paint cans, a boombox and tomato soup cans (but in a “spray”) in the style of Warhol’s Brillo Boxes, and other paintings–all baring the distinct style of the artists that Guetta has followed–particularly Banksy, and Banky’s idol: Andy Warhol.

The end-product of all this manufacturing is a giant art show, where Guetta, who has now renamed himself “Mister Brainwash” or MBW, makes his debut.

The Street Artists and Banksy are interviewed and react with amazement that with no real training or talent, Guetta was able to create more pieces than anyone else, faster than anyone and to mount a massive art show that is a commercial success.

The thing is about all of that, is, well, it’s a story. A fantasy. From Fantasyland.


The pivotal point in the film isn’t when Banksy takes over the camera.

The pivital point is when Banksy and Guetta go to Disneyland during the mounting of Banksy’s big show in Los Angeles, two years before.

In 2006, Banksy came to LA to prepare for a warehouse show of his art. (In the film, he claims to leave during the mounting, but it was a few months before the show.)

Banksy took some time off to visit Disneyland and while there, installed a “Guantanamo Bay detainee” in the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland. Guetta accompanied him.

When Banksy and Guetta first arrive to the park, Guetta inquiries if Mickey Mouse is there. The ticket agent says that Mickey Mouse is in the park, in Fantasyland–and will be there all day.

Banksy installed his art and Guetta filmed and photographs the installation. While Banksy is changing clothing, Guetta notices he is being followed and tries to leave the park–and is subsequently caught.

As the Disney security interrogates Guetta in their own “Guantanomo Bay,” the film repeatedly cuts to photos of ‘It’s a Small World,” in Fantasyland.

After Guetta’s interrogation, Banksy says in the film that after this episode, he had no trouble at all deeply trusting Guetta.

It is at this point, that Banksy realized that Guetta could also potentially be the “front” for Banksy wanting to sell his art more commercially.

Banksy makes Guetta the “Mickey Mouse” to Banksy’s “Walt Disney.”

As the film continues, we return to Mister Brainwash and his show. The public laps it up and thinks MBW is a genius.

The real genius is Banksy, who knows that if he were to suddenly start selling greeting cards, coffee mugs and posters, the value of his identity as a “Street Artist” would plummet. So Banksy invents the character “Mister Brainwash” who creates and sells the art for him.

(A note about Disney: Walt Disney dreamed up the Disney characters and Disneyland, and yet, when political or ethics movements make a play at mocking corporate America, they avoid the artist of Walt Disney, and instead use his character of Mickey Mouse to take the rap.)

“Exit Through the Gift Shop” is about commerce. A large-scale advertisement for Banksy’s Mickey Mouse: ¬†Mister Brainwash. It’s a way to sell the MBW themed items through the giant gift shops that are the worldwide installations of the Mister Brainwash exhibitions.

Trend: Scapegoating for profit! Everybody’s doing it–from Guantanemo Bay to Disney to…….Banksy.