NI artist creates a new free digital ‘peace’ app for a Belfast wall

Deepa Mann-Kler launches AR Peace Wall to enhance the visitor experience at Cupar Way Peace Wall

By Claire Cartmill
Thursday, 3rd February 2022, 6:00 am
Pictured launching the new app is Matthew Malcolm, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Deepa Mann-Kler, artist and Professor Paul Moore, Future Screens NI
Pictured launching the new app is Matthew Malcolm, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Deepa Mann-Kler, artist and Professor Paul Moore, Future Screens NI

A Northern Ireland artist has launched a new app, AR Peace Wall, which aims to enhance the visitor experience at Cupar Way Peace Wall in Belfast.

Chief executive of Belfast creative immersive company Neon, Deepa Mann-Kler, created the free app to enhance the visitor experience at the peace wall, both in person and online, through the discovery of new stories.

AR Peace Wall is one of 26 digital arts projects supported through the Creative Industries Seed Fund, a funding programme, worth £363,898, developed by the Arts Council of NI and Future Screens NI, which aims to assist arts organisations, and creative businesses to undertake digital arts projects that contribute to the growth of the creative industries and unlock future income generation.

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The AR Peace Wall app, which received £25,000, works by pointing a mobile phone at the crane image and at the five AR triggers stencilled along Cupar Way.

The app explores peace building in a digital way and tells the story of a little boy on the morning the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. At its heart, this story is an exploration of the different approaches to peace building undertaken and how life found a way to survive heat that was 40 times greater than the heat emitted by the sun. It is a story of hope. AR Peace Wall uses the crane - called ‘Tsuru’ in Japanese - and is the international symbol for peace.

AR Peace Wall is also supported with funding from the Department for Communities and is a collaboration between Neon, Aura Digital, Yellow Design, Centre for Democracy & Peace Building, Peace Culture Village, Frank Lyons & Declan Keeney from Ulster University.

Deepa explained: “For me what is really exciting about AR Peace Wall, is that it has the power to reshape the way we remember history in public spaces. AR can democratise public spaces by capturing the collective memory of a space. Since there are no regulations specifying who owns the digital space which is anchored in the real world, AR belongs to everyone at the moment. And AR has many applications across a wide range of fields, one of which is social justice.

“AR has the power to add much needed context to public spaces and it can reshape how society perceives and remembers history. Spaces have often been designed to exclude certain voices and narratives. In the past, there was little anyone could do about it without some form of vandalism. With AR technology in our grasp, everyone now has a new and powerful tool in the fight for social justice. AR has the capacity to forge connections, nurture empathy, and promote healing through immersive experiences.”

Matthew Malcolm, creative industries development officer, Arts Council of NI, continued: “This wonderful new digital app from artist Deepa Mann-Kler demonstrates to power of using digital arts within a social justice context and to enhance the experience of storytelling. The Creative Industries Seed Fund reflects the Arts Council’s continuing commitment to encouraging innovative practices that cross artform boundaries and build digital capabilities within the NI arts sector. We are currently accepting online applications for a second round of the Creative Industries Seed Fund, which will close on February 28, and I would encourage anyone interested in applying to visit the Arts Council’s website.”

Professor Paul Moore, director Future Screens NI, added: “Supporting Neon in the creation and launch of AR Peace Wall is a natural strategic fit for Future Screens NI. Our priorities include the delivery of expert technical skills, opportunity and growth across immersive technologies and industries in NI. We see enormous tourism, creative, education and economic potential in site specific augmented storytelling. The international partnership with Hiroshima only made this AR experience more compelling.”

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