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Tue, 07 Feb 2023 16:30:33 -0600
2018-03-07 Print

Upstate New York artist collective uses Augmented Reality to rethink the future of crumbling infrastructure

An augmented reality art exhibition “Rochester Subway” is reimagining the purpose of abandoned spaces in the United States. ExSpace Artist Collective brings together four passionate artists, Naomi Rutagarama, Jorge Vazquez Gonzalez, Sammi Wang, and Valev Laube, working with augmented reality and digital technologies to create a pioneering interactive art exhibition facilitating conversation around abandoned spaces and their future as platforms for community engagement and self-expression.


Rochester Subway is a pioneer project of ExSpace Artist Collective, a group of University of Rochester digital media students, aiming to showcase the evolution of an abandoned urban space through art projections and innovative technology. "The Rochester Subway space isn’t simply a significant landmark in decay, but it has evolved into a platform of individual expression and sociopolitical conversation representing parts of society that are silenced by media, societal expectations or cultural norms," said the project lead and curator Naomi Rutagarama.

Since 1956, the Rochester Subway, once known as a center for urban transportation and community interaction, has been left abandoned by the city and its former occupants. After multiple attempts to repurpose this location in downtown Rochester, the city has left much of the derelict subway system unattended. To this day the city has failed to find practical and beneficial purposes for the location. While the art exhibition isn't purposed to provide any solutions to an ongoing debate, the creators hope to at least facilitate new conversation around it that could look at the community and the artworks that currently reside there for inspiration. It also acts as a tool for cultural preservation and community engagement. The marketing specialist and digital designer Valev Laube commented: "We believe that ideas for repurposing or renovating the space already exist, engraved and painted on the walls of the subway tunnels. It's all about collecting documentation and bringing these stories above the ground."

As many other abandoned landmarks, the Rochester subway has been taken over by homeless people, youth urban explorers, historians and curious local citizens. It lives on as a vibrant space for artistic sociopolitical expression through graffiti and street art remaining a popular location for photography by many social media influencers. By bringing graffiti art out of the abandoned location and into an art gallery, the artist collective will showcase human voices that otherwise would be disregarded due to the prejudice around the location. Digital art forms allow artists to bring attention to these spaces without interfering with the physical qualities of the space.
ExSpace's art exhibition "Rochester Subway" will take place on April 15-23, 2018 at Sage Art Center, featuring art projections, Augmented Reality art overlays and audio materials. The viewer will be able to use his or her smartphone to reveal the graffiti artwork that already exists in the space. The utilization of augmented reality will bring an abandoned space closer to the community and the artists hope to create interest amongst younger demographics to explore and appreciate their local history. Demo application of the technology will also be available online starting April 2018.

More information about the project and individual artists is available at

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Contact Info
ExSpace Artist Collective
500 Joseph C Wilson Blvd,
Rochester, NY 14627

Phone: 7323577373