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Unleash Your Inner Spirit Animal In This Virtual Mirror Installation

In various cultures across the globe the idea of associating animals with human souls is one that’s found again and again—the so-called spirit or power animal is commonly found in shamanistic practices across Eurasia and the Americas. It’s an ancient concept that could, as the medium of augmented reality matures, could take on a whole new form of existence in the real world, even if it’s just in the form of a decorative avatar, a poetic way of portraying and expressing ourselves and our characters.

This idea, coupled with that of the animal mask, which is similarly found in various indigenous cultures, is a new installation from artist Karolina Sobecka called All the Universe is Full of the Lives of Perfect Creatures. In it, Sobecka overlays an animal head on a human’s reflection so that it mimics the person’s movements and expressions, hovering over the person’s own face. Talk about taking anthropomorphism to a whole other level.

Created using the FaceTracker library, the ofxFaceTracker addon, openFrameworks, Unity3d, and Blender3d, each time someone walks in front of this magical mirror a different animal appears in the reflection, ranging from wild predators to more domesticated creatures. In addition to miming the viewer’s facial expressions, the animals also introduce some of their own, which in turn encourages the viewer to mimic these in a reciprocal manner.

While it reminded us of fantasy, Sobecka explains on her site that the idea came from science, specifically from the idea of mirror neurons, which are activated when we carry out—and when we watch someone carry out—a task, potentially helping us learn through imitation, especially with non-verbal species like animals. Sobecka also says that she’s interested in exploring the relationship between the real and the digital, “Part of my interest in this project is the combination of the virtual and physical world—inserting a layer of imagination into a world we know. The chain of causes and effects remains in place, although slightly augmented. The familiar is transformed into the uncanny, prompting us to see the mechanics of perception, interaction, and relationships with others anew.”

Read more about it on her website.

Images: All rights reserved by gravitytrap