For the past seven years, in collaboration with renown artists worldwide the Street Art Museum Amsterdam – or just SAMA – has built a collection of over 300 pieces that lightens up the walls of one of the most degraded neighborhoods of the city. Many of them are still present in the collection, but around 70% have been removed, demolished or painted over. By the end of this year renovation of the area will start and, even though it is part of the evolution of the urban landscape, the second monumental piece will turn to rubbles. To preserve the artwork long after it will be gone, SAMA together with GRTalk embarked on a project that uses photogrammetry, virtual reality animation and 360° videos to create an experience that merges realities and tell the story of the mural “Fatherhood” from the artist STINKFISH and the already gone artwork “Safety”.
It is in the nature of streetart and graffiti that it´s always changing and something new is coming up, the city changes as well continuously. Nevertheless it´s an important and wonderful upgrade to be able to archive and document those monuments for still experiencing them even after they are gone. SAMA had already some previous film sessions but with the mural “Fatherhood” it´s going complete into VR. The plan is to get many more artworks in the database, unfortunately a lot of amazing ones are already lost. To get the funds for the equipment and the licenses SAMA started a crowdfunding campaign at Kickstarter with a lot more detailed information about the background, the artist and the planed investments.
We spoke with Gabriele Romagnoli from GRTalk in an interview about the project and the techniques of capturing these kind of artworks into a digital virtual world. In the podcast Gabriele explains about his volunteering at preserving these phenomenal pieces of the urban landscape, how VR works and what the Streetart Museum of Amsterdam is and does. Listen to the podcast with Gabriele about this creative idea and the background of their doings. The conversation is also written down in the following part.
Tell me a little bit about you and about your company GRTalk.
Yes, so basically GRTalk started as an a idea to tell exciting stories or help companies that are busy with virtual reality or documented reality to tell their stories. So out of interest for the technology and for this story telling aspect of it I basically got in contact with SAMA. That is the Streetart Museum of Amsterdam. Because I saw that they were somehow busy with using virtual reality. And that was basically that I hopped in to asses for more lobbying the technology and that´s the moment when you learn more about the artwork and about the story behind them and about what is actually happening and why this artwork is going to be destroyed. That´s the moment where I stayed for the project. So that was actually a very nice ride for the past four or five month. Now we have put something together and we are eager to show it to people.
You have different clients but your basic field is the virtual reality and this time it´s with Streetart.
GRTalk, since when do you exist, when did you start?
Now it´s one and a half year almost. So this is not my main thing. What I do is, I really try to help studios that are trying to tell what their service is about and try to help them with their communication. And one of the reasons is because I also love technology and because I´m also in this area basically since the first virtual reality headset came in. That´s why I can help them the most. And I also learned some of the techniques that I use. For example reality captures. The one that we are busy with in this project allows to basically capture an object in real world and make into a 3d model. This is more I would say a labor of love other than my core business.
GRTalk is obviously Gabriele Romagnoli, the two letters G R for your name. So it´s like a side project in a bigger tree of projects you have.
Yes, exactly. That mostly evolves about helping companies that are trying to grow and scale with their commercial activities to basically to reach out to more clients. That is basically the biggest part of what I do. To help telling exciting stories. This one is indeed just for my interest and to be able with something that is really concrete. Someone that is at the moment trying to venturing in this new world.
The latest mural is “Fatherhood” in Amsterdam. This is a wonderful way of preserving not only the pictures of this monument, of this artworks, it´s a step further to experience it how must have been when you really stay in front of the building.
Yes, absolutely. And actually there is Anna who is the curator of the museum and she likes to make this comparison. In this case it´s a bit like when you see your old grandmother will die. You know that sooner or later it´s going to happen. Nevertheless you cannot prevent to be sad when you see the whole building gets torn down. You know that it´s happening and nobody is going to blame the municipality for renewing a neighborhood. We don´t want to do that. It´s just part of the nature of this kind of art. It comes and goes. With virtual reality we are really able to bring a bit of the story that is around it. And actually for “Fatherhood” you can see when we scanned the walls, there is an abandoned bike at the bottom of the artwork that is basically overgrown with vines. That is a typical kind of scene here in the Netherlands. With so many bikes all over the places. And it tells as well its part of the story. I think it´s a little bit like when you see a tattoo and you are trying to take a picture of the tattoo. But of course it is not the same as seeing it there. Tattoo are made to be in 3d on someone´s body part, on a shoulder, on the back. And the same should be for streetart. It´s part of the geometry of the urban space. And that´s why we believe virtual reality is the best way for presentation and the best way to preserve it. Everybody in the world could basically jump in and see as it was.
The best way would be with this glasses, with this head set. But you have also already some information about it, some first little pictures and some sketches on the internet. For example on Sketchfab, there is this 3d model where you can just look around from all perspectives. As well you made some trailers on Youtube. Explain me a little bit how you are doing this, how do you build it and how does this work with virtual reality and the streetart works.
When we often speak about virtual reality, there is a lot what happens. It´s basically to see a 360° video. So you are in a place and you see things moving around. In this case we wanted to take this a step further. So we really wanted to have “Fatherhood” captured as a 3d model so that we could use it to make something more exciting. The 3d model was actually captured with a technique that is called photogrammetry. And it´s basically to take a lot of pictures – we took 457 pictures, some of them also with a drone for the higher parts of the model. And then we put it in a software which was able to recreate a 3d model, like in real size of the wall. During this experience people are able to see it with the virtual reality glasses, but also with their phone. For example you can have your phone and sometimes when you have a 360° content that is playing on Youtube for example you can also move your phone around to see it. That is also going to be a possibility. So we are going to use that model that we recreated to have things happening around it. We want to tell a little story where the user is going on a journey and where stuff is going to happen. Like almost hit by a car, dropping from the roof, something which is going to be around. That would have been impossible just having a 360° video. Having capturing the wall and putting it in a 3d environment is something that really allows us to unleash all the creative opportunities which are possible.
Is this the first project now? Is it like the start or do already have some other artworks which are in virtual reality?
The first work that the Streetart Museum of Amsterdam actually did was done with capturing the making of Bastardilla. That is another monumental artwork and that was the first experiment. During the making there was 360°camera that was moved with a crane close to the artwork. But basically the artist was there painting. So this was really exciting with the movement of the camera. This was the first experiment. This one is instead a bit different, because we are trying to capture the wall in virtual reality to really preserve it and not have a movie out of it, or not to have only a movie about it. And then depending on how this kind of project will be accepted by the community and by the municipalities we would like to expand this. As we speak there are other artworks that are seriously in danger. And “Fatherhood” is not going to be the first to be gone. Virtual reality is not just ´Oh yeah, we are doing stuff in virtual reality because it´s cool´. No, it´s really a necessity. Artworks are really going to be destroyed. I think last year the museum lost three or four pieces. And by the end of the year “Fatherhood” and others will follow. It is really a necessity. Those things are going to be lost. And this is as well part of what streetart is with this changing nature. We cannot do anything about it.
It´s just a perfect instrument for documentation. I´m thinking about a map or a like a virtual reality place where all the preserved object and artworks are connected, so you can maybe like walk around and you have not only the one artwork like “Fatherhood”, you could walk around the corner and there is another one. So you could put them all together on a virtual reality streetart graveyard area.
Yes. And it is not just about the fact that you have it there then. Because the moment when you have it captured as a digital object you can document it. For example you can add the voice of a narrator who tells the story of that artwork. Because that´s what is important. Streetart is not only about how pretty it is. It´s very often about the meaning. In this case for “Fatherhood” it was the artist STINKFISH who took basically this picture because he was inspired by this a father in Nepal carrying his child. And it was in a moment that the municipality was providing money to get fathers involved with their children. So you see at that moment the painting at a facade of a building that really means something. And those are information you cannot have if you just walk by and you just see it. This is why I also encourage everybody who is actually passing by Amsterdam to book a tour with Anna and the Streetart Museum. It´s really an experience. We would like to give the opportunity to people to experience it all over the world. Getting funds and awareness for this project would be a good start because it would mean that there is interest and people care about it. This would provide us to more support and we can do this on a more consistent way.
This is a lot of work with a lot of passion, you need support of course and it takes time. There are some ways to support you. For example you are at Kickstarter as well.
Yes indeed. We launched at Kickstarter where we are trying to raise the funding to basically buy the equipment and the licenses needed to finish the experience as well as support future preservation projects. And people that want to support could get different things back. We really wanted to give something meaningful. Despite were are a NGO, the Streeart Museum is a NGO and we are supporting with something. People would have access to the digital file for 10 Euros. The best way to experience it would be with virtual reality glasses and we are going to make some custom printed goggle cardboards. So it´s a very simple car board box where you can put your phone inside and it really gives you the impression of being there. And it is going to have a print by the artist himself on the outer side of the goggle cardboard. There is also something that is absolutely awesome, if you around in Amsterdam you shouldn´t miss it. For 15 Euro you can have a tour for two persons and you have access as well to the headquarter of the SAMA. It´s a two to three hour tour. I think they came up with this great idea and it is a nice Christmas gift, if you really want to give to someone who is in the neighborhood of Amsterdam. And then lastly we also evoked of course the artist himself. STINKFISH will make a limited print, a poster of his artwork and it is going to be signed by him. It is really an amazing way to contribute to this project.
Can you say some words to the SAMA, the Streetart Museum of Amsterdam in general? You mentioned already the tours, but what is the museum about?
The museum was founded around seven years ago, in 2012, I don´t want make mistakes, but it´s definitely been since quite a while. They started with few artworks and it´s like a grass route museum and one of those museums that start from the bottom where it is really made by the people and for the community. Within the years it started attracting artists from all over the world. For example BETOY, STINKFISH or BASTADILLA and many many more. They basically worked with Anna and painted the walls of this incredible capital. What happened is also that it is not just about the artwork, but it´s also about how the community connects with the artwork. Every time whenever there are this big events about these monumental pieces there are always workshops organized and it´s incredible how it works. I just want to tell an anecdote. What happens once, there was a big monumental artwork about the “Milkmaid” from Vermeer on a big wall. And there was a woman who approached Anna and she asked: “Why are you painting a white Dutch woman on my wall when actually nobody in that building is either white or Dutch?” Well, that was a very legitimate question. But what happened was, there were also this workshops organized with kids during the painting. And two days later the same woman came back and she said: “Thank you! You should organize more of these workshops!” So it´s really remarkable how then streetart becomes really a way and a mean of change. This would be impossible to have if it wasn´t for SAMA, for Anna, the volunteers and the whole network of artists that is now contributing in this more colorful and meaningful neighborhood.
To understand the concept of this museum. It is not like the museums you know, like a building with a lot of artifacts. It´s more the concept like the artworks are throughout the whole city and it´s more like a network of artists who are doing these artworks and putting new ones in the city and like now you are preserving old existing ones into virtual reality.
Yes, right now, what they are doing is indeed that. It´s an open museum. So you really walk around. And when you think about streetart, it´s of course not only about the big pieces. As well it´s about the little details, the little tag wars and stickers. That´s really what makes it special. You really walk on the street and you really see it, where the art belongs. You are right there. This is also because a lot of the art and the paint and whatever, sometimes it´s funded by the community, sometimes it´s the artist, sometimes it´s the municipality that supports with a crane or equipment. So it is really like a community. A work from the community and SAMA is coordinating it and is working with the artists. And right now there is the moment to also expand the scope of the museum. That´s why we are expanding into virtual reality.
VR Project “Fatherhood”
VR Scene Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FQqvBPxoH8&feature=youtu.be
Streetart Museum Amsterdam (SAMA)
Adress: Immanuel Kanthof 1, 1064VR, Amsterdam
Phone: +31 6 39482822