Face Filters for Instagram and Snapchat Are the New Frontier of Surrealist Art
Augmented reality masks for the masses
Augmented reality is here. AR “face filters” — a mask-like augmented reality that adds virtual objects to an individual’s face—have become wildly popular on Instagram, Snapchat, and even video calling on FaceTime. But little attention so far has been given to face filters as AR art. Often seen as play, AR face filters can provide an engaging and personal art experience.
Traditional versus new ways of seeing
The most traditional way to consume art is through passive observation. Offline we stand in galleries and sit in concerts, and online we allow creative works to slowly and carefully infiltrate our consciousness. The passive experience permits us to think deeply and consider what we are seeing, but it also hinders our ability to actively engage, explore and create, and build onto existing works as creative collaboration. With many art forms, there is a distinct divide between the artwork and the viewer.
One way to change this is through computer-mediated realities, such as AR. AR works by taking a view of reality and placing virtual objects within that same view. In this way, you can mix virtual sculptures, text, or sounds with your pre-existing world. Instagram and Snapchat have been pioneers of this medium, allowing creators to submit AR experiences on their platforms which they can share through social media.
Instagram, Snapchat, and social media platforms, in general, have lots of detractors. The media bemoan our use of such platforms as a means of distancing us from art and other meaningful experiences. But the AR face filters from these same social media companies are themselves novel art forms. Since we often use social media tools to create AR art, then the creation is inherently a form of post-internet art: Art that is reliant on and created since the birth of the internet.