The Trafalgar St tunnel reconstruction is the most recent example of research by Josh Harle’s Tactical Space Lab into approaches to ‘digital heritage’: using cutting-edge digital capture technology to document and explore one of Sydney’s most eye-catching graffiti sites at two points in its recent history.
The reconstruction approach combines thousands of photographs, using hundred of hours of processing time to render them into a single 3D model. At the final count, the tunnel utilised more than 40 gigapixels of image data to produce a super-high resolution reconstructed surface. This final reconstruction has been used to create an interactive 3D iPad app, as well as a fold-out printed map of the walls and ceiling of the space.
The App allows visitors to walk through the length of the tunnel and zoom in to examine an area in high-detail. On top of this, Harle has added virtual storytellers and a time-lapse feature to bring the app to life: with the help of its local denizens, the tunnel is fleshed out through guided tours and stories, moving through the space and punctuated by gestures toward their favourite parts. In addition, by taking multiple captures months apart, Harle is able to breathtakingly transform the tunnel in the midst of his own tour, showing the striking transitions between different points in its history.
The sections of the printed map unfold out over 6 metres, printed in high-resolution to maintain the legibility and impact of the tunnel’s many vivid details. The booklet shows the tunnel as it was in early 2014.
Discussing the project, Harle explains: “I don’t believe in the preservation of graffiti – like projects to protect Banksy works with glass boxes. I think the dynamic, ephemeral aspects of graffiti are part of what make it so exciting. Having said that, graffiti is an incredibly important record of vibrant cultural expression, and it deserves to be conserved through ‘digital heritage’ projects like this.”
This project is the precursor to the next stage of Harle’s research; working with archaeologists and computer scientists at the University of Western Australia, and local communities in Pilbara and Kimberley to explore similar approaches to documenting rock art, supported by the Australia Council for the Arts.
“As an art technologist, I’m keen to go beyond the clinical feel of many recent site scanning projects, and work with approaches of evocative spatial storytelling from computer games, video, and theatre. This project attempts to do that.” He says.
The App is available now for Mac, PC, and iPad via app store! Google Play version is coming soon.
The project was made possible through the generous support of Marrickville Council.