Presenting visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces.

AiOP Number: Shannon Novak’s “Manhattan Phrase” augments reality

The define us, bind us, thrill us, fulfill us, no matter how you look at them numbers are ever present and an integral part of all our lives, whether we realize it or not.  It is for this reason why Art in Odd Places (AiOP) chose to make the theme for their 2013 festival NUMBER.  From October 11-20, AiOP artists will be presenting their works exploring this theme along 14th street, from Avenue C all the way to the Hudson River.  During this period, Auckland-based artist Shannon Novak will be augmenting reality from “40.74279,-74.008981 to 40.728411,-73.975679.”


“Transcription -36.852926,174.763411.” 2013, image courtesy of artist.

Novak, who works in painting, sculpture, and installation, focuses on “using geometric forms to explore his deep and abiding interest in the interrelationships between sound, colour, form, time, space, and social context.”  For his upcoming piece, “Manhattan Phrase: 40.74279,-74.008981 to 40.728411,-73.975679,” the title of which referring to the end coordinates on 14th street of AiOP’s NUMBER, Novak will be creating a series of works related to music, geometry, and color that his audience can explore via their mobile devices in designated points along the festival route.

Novak was able to sit down and talk with AiOP and give us a better sense of how his upcoming project for the festival will transpire:

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the kinds of work that you do?

I am artist based in Auckland, New Zealand exploring the idea that ‘music is in everything’. I reveal the musicality of objects and locations through my own language of geometric forms and colour. This takes the form of painting, installation, and sculpture and most recently the use of augmented reality and mobile devices. This means the audience can hold up a mobile device to an object or location and watch virtual geometric forms animate over the object or location with sound.

What attracted you to this year’s AiOP festival?

The use of augmented reality and mobile devices allows me to create work almost anywhere, whether a door, an office building, or a mountain regardless of any restrictions imposed. I was drawn to the mission of Art in Odd Places as it aligned with this idea, supporting a world where artists are free to exhibit artwork in public space beyond formal regulations in place.

Transcriptions Verse 1 from Shannon Novak on Vimeo.

How are you interpreting the theme number?

The title of my project is “Manhattan Phrase: 40.74279,-74.008981 to 40.728411,-73.975679”, the number referring to the boundaries of the project in GPS coordinates, which reflect the boundaries of the Art in Odd Places (along 14th Street, New York City from Avenue C to the Hudson River). I will be creating a series of twelve works, each titled by its GPS coordinate.


“Transcription -36.848264,174.762129.” 2013, image courtesy of artist.

What excites you about the prospect of presenting this work?

I have found with developing augmented reality works, there is often a need for me to act as a tour guide, taking the audience to each work and activating it together with mobile devices. I really enjoy this aspect of the work so am looking forward to taking people on tours in New York. I’m also excited about what the work might inspire others to do in terms of using augmented reality in similar ways.

How has adapting your work to 14th street affected your process?

Normally I would develop my work on-site, taking photos of objects and locations, then working on these with various computer programs to develop the augmented reality component. This was not feasible given I lived in New Zealand, so I had to develop the work remotely with the assistance of Claire Demere from the Art in Odd Places project team. Claire would take photos and send these to me to work on. I would then ask Claire to test the work once developed. This has been a fantastic experience, and an approach I will continue to use in future.

Screen Harmonics from Shannon Novak on Vimeo.

Have you come to learn anything new about 14th street while formulating your work?

As I am from New Zealand, I knew nothing about 14th Street and I have not visited New York before. But I was able to get a feel for the street using tools like Google Maps to zoom down to street view and analyse buildings, roads, and other features. It soon occurred to me the street had a rich history, evidenced from the mix of old and new architecture, so given the idea that ‘music is in everything’ I began to explore the musical history of the buildings. As a result, I learned a lot of this history and I’m looking forward to sharing it with the audience.

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