Between the real and the virtual

Virtual reality allows us to explore artificial worlds using visual, sonar or tactile simulations, but it does not quite manage to overcome its main obstacle: the discontinuity between the virtual world and the immediate physical environment of the user. To address this limitation, developers of virtual imaging, sound and communication technology are increasingly turning to what they call augmented reality, making it possible to superimpose virtual information onto the reality of the environment perceived by the user. This kind of technology amplifies not only the user's performance in the world, but also his perception of the world.

MIXARRT Research Group, directed by Christine Ross from Université McGill, has carried out the first significant research on the aesthetic exploration of the so-called augmentation technology of spatial and time perception. The project combined experimentation with art objects, technological analysis and artist interviews, and also included a comparison with theoretical research on new media. It led the researchers to several conclusions that have been published in various collective works, including Screen/Space: the Projected Image in Contemporary Art (Manchester University Press), and Precarious Visualities (McGill-Queen's University Press). The researchers have also had texts published in several specialized journals such as Convergence, Social Text, Fibreculture and Cinema.

According to the research group, contemporary art uses the link between the real and the virtual not as a continuity, but as an imperfection. The very limits of technology are used to build an aesthetic and to create completely new perceptions of space-time in the spectator. But this method is not entirely exclusive to digital technology; it can also be found in various analog media from the 1960s and 1970s, as well as in several recent non-digital art forms.


Groupe de recherche MIXARRT


Christine Ross, Université McGill

Regular members

  • Olivier Asselin, Université de Montréal
  • Darin Barney, Université McGill
  • Kimberly Sawchuk, Université Concordia
  • Jonathan Sterne, Université McGill
  • David Tomas, Université du Québec à Montréal