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Anthropocene in 3-D

October 16th, 2018

Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier. AR #2, President Kenyatta’s Tusk Pile, April 28, Nairobi, Kenya, 2016. Photogrammetric augmented reality (AR). Courtesy of the artists.

Creating an augmented reality (AR) artwork is no simple task. It requires photographing an object from every possible angle, thousands of times. These high resolution photographs are then painstakingly stitched together to create a 3D model that can be seen digitally. Then an app is developed through which to see and engage with the artwork. This complex process is worth every step because the results are astonishing – as visitors to our major fall exhibition, Anthropocene, are finding out.

Renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky is at the forefront of pushing the boundaries of image making, 3D-printing and now augmented and virtual reality. For Anthropocene, he and award-winning filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier continue to push the envelope, merging art with technology and AR.

As part of Anthropocene, visitors will come face to face with three new AR artworks, which illustrate human impact on the Earth. To experience these phenomenal works, visitors download the free AVARA app (available from the Apple App Store or Google Play) onto their tablet or smartphone before arriving at the AGO. Once inside the exhibition, visitors use the app to point their devices at designated markers to activate them, bringing the 3D-images to life.

We can’t wait for you to see these works in person! In the meantime, here is a sneak peek at what you’ll see.

President Kenyatta’s Tusk Pile

AR #2, President Kenyatta’s Tusk Pile, April 28, Nairobi, Kenya 2016

On April 30, 2016, the largest ivory burn in Africa’s history took place in Nairobi National Park, Kenya. Through the AVARA app, visitors can see a near-to-scale rendering of the largest tusk pile before it was burned, comprised of more than 2,000 images woven together. More than 100 tonnes of illegal ivory and rhino horn was destroyed in the burn, which brought awareness to the impending extinction of African elephants and was a call to arms to stop the trade of ivory.


AR #4, Sudan, the Last Male Northern White Rhinoceros, Nanyuki, Kenya 2016

In March 2018, Sudan, the last remaining male northern white rhinoceros, died. Before he passed away, the Anthropocene team spent six days photographing and filming him at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Through the app, visitors can experience an intimate encounter with a near-to-scale version of the now-extinct animal.

Big Lonely Doug

AR #3, Big Lonely Doug, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada 2016

Big Lonely Doug, the second largest Douglas fir tree in Canada, stands alone in a clear-cut forest near Port Renfrew, British Columbia. Standing 66-metres tall – taller than Niagara Falls — the tree is believed to be about 1,000 years old. The Anthropocene team took over 6,000 images of this tree, and through the app, visitors can view its full majesty in Galleria Italia.

Timed-entry tickets for Anthropocene are on sale now at, in person and by phone.

Not bringing your smartphone or tablet with you?  A limited number of pre-configured tablets, generously supplied by TELUS, will be available in the exhibition space so you can experience these three AR installations. The artists wish to thank TELUS for its financial support in the creation of these AR artworks.

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