Dr Rewa Wright

Dr Rewa Wright

Lecturer

School of Creative Industries

Interdisciplinary research with technology art and living plants

Dr Rewa Wright uses augmented and mixed reality art to explore interconnectivity, particularly with plants. Her work is bringing awareness to how we relate to the world around us.

Dr Rewa Wright using virtual reality with plants

Interactive media designer and creative technologist, Dr Rewa Wright, asks an important question: What would a ‘more-than-human’ approach to mixed reality look and feel like? Taking her lead from Donna Haraway, Rosi Braidotti and Karan Barad, Rewa’s research explores data in conjunction with ecology as an emerging post-human perspective in design.

“From quantum imaging, we know that all things are connected, and that humans can no longer be considered the centre of the Universe. We are but one small part,” explains Rewa. The significance of this approach defies the conventional thinking that plants are passive: In fact, they are sensing the world, at every moment. Using bespoke hardware and software sensing technologies and presenting her research using cutting edge posthuman design methods, Rewa is using art and technology to change attitudes to plants.

People, data and plants: A unique interface paradigm

How can we use technology to better connect with living plants?

“It’s about gaining an insight into the mysterious and opaque world of unseen plant processes, and how humans react to plants when we can actually see and hear what they are doing. This challenges the normal way of thinking in Western society, where plants are seen as passive.”

Rewa hails from Aotearoa ( the Māori name for New Zealand) and moved to Australia in 2014 to take up a PhD scholarship at UNSW studying with renowned media art Professor Anna Munster. Her work is a natural extension of her Māori ancestry, where culturally, plant-human interactions are embraced.

“In fact, some of our most beloved icons are plants, such as Tāne Mahuta, the God of the Forest, a giant kauri (Agathis australis) in the Waipoua Forest of Aotearoa, New Zealand.”

“It is key to remain open to a more sensory experience with technology that encourages new connections to emerge, such as digital augments that visibly reassemble in real-time, and sounds from the normally inaudible bio-electrical reactions of living plants. I hope I have changed people’s view of what reactions plants have when in contact with humans.”

As well as her practice-based research, Rewa is a critical theorist working at the nexus of posthumanism and sustainable design. “Sustainability is a primary underlying force effecting every aspect of future life in our global village, at a micro and macro level, my work looks at entanglements between nature, culture and technology. It is crucial that we balance our human needs for sustainable living on Planet Earth, with the needs of other species, using a philosophy of respect, care and empathy.”

An innovative fusion

Rewa’s technical and creative background in television and film spanned over a decade, editing and directing content for Television New Zealand, Māori Television, and TV3 ( New Zealand). They were valuable experiences that helped establish a solid, foundational knowledge for her current pursuits.

“I have both the technical and the creative side and, of course, a deep love of emerging technology.”

Her motivation to think beyond orthodox methods and desire to cross the boundaries of artistic exploration in interactive art and design, has placed her on the highly innovative path she treads today.

“I fuse both HASS (humanities and social sciences) and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) approaches to augmented reality and mixed reality, by designing hybrid network assemblages that cross both fields.”

It’s an accomplishment that has been recognised as innovative by experts in the field. In 2019, Rewa showcased her Contact/Sense prototype—a live performance and installation of her work—as part of the juried selection at the SIGGRAPH Asia Art Gallery. Her short speculative film, Signaletic Flow 2.0, has been curated into the ACM SIGGRAPH DAC Show, Digital Power, in Washington this July.

Expanding awareness

In addition to writing a book based on her PhD, Rewa also travels the world talking at numerous international conferences and showcasing her work.

“International exposure is essential for my work, and embedding myself in a more vibrant research culture is imperative. I travel as much as I can with my collaborator and partner, sound designer Simon Howden. It’s important for people to know about our work, we take an interspecies approach that is increasingly valuable in the sustainable living discourse as well as in media art and design.”

“We attend about 2-4 conferences a year and present our work as widely as possible in Europe, North America, Asia and of course in Australia too. There’s nothing like the thrill of showing others what you have made.”

Expectedly, there are challenges amongst the highs, and Rewa is clear about the need to form intentional alliances to prioritise her own research.

“There is always sexism to face when you are a woman making things with technology in a male-dominated field. The key I have found to overcoming sexism is to be highly selective with whom I research. I stick with like-minded individuals only. Currently, as well as my long-term collaboration with Simon Howden, I am working with an amazing group of women in UoN, on the upcoming ‘Biomes’ exhibition (Sept, 2020) led by Dr. Alex Callen and Dr. Bernadette Drabsch. I also have two innovative software design collaborations for social good in FASTlab at SOCI, in teams led by my mentor Professor Mario Minichiello and Professor Paul Egglestone.”

It’s a decision that has been fruitful and a reality that has done nothing to dampen her drive or appreciation for who she is or what she does.

“I am a natural experimenter. I enjoy taking risks and never feel restricted by convention. The nexus of art, technology and ecology is an interdisciplinary web I can keep growing within.”

Interdisciplinary research with technology art and living plants

Dr Rewa Wright uses augmented and mixed reality art to explore interconnectivity, particularly with plants. Her work is bringing awareness to how we relate to the world around us.

Read more

Career Summary

Biography

Dr. Rewa Wright has been working with augmented (AR) and mixed reality (MR) since 2012, and has 20 years of experience in various aspects of photographic, moving, and virtual image creation. She is an interactive media designer and inverse technologist who combines artificial vision technologies with living plants and custom built software to examine the conditions of our relationship to computation, ecology and the body. As a design theorist, she is known for her critical formulation, the 'software assemblage'. She has presented academic and artistic research internationally in Portugal, Canada, Hong Kong, Colombia, Spain, London and New Zealand. Her research weaves together theory and practice in philosophy, cyberfeminism, interaction design, technoculture, camera-less photography and real-time 3D modelling, to think through some of the thorny problems posed by our new hybrid physical and digital spaces. Rewa is Maori from Ngapuhi/Te Rarawa/Te Uri o Hau hapu of Aotearoa/New Zealand. Indigenous practices are emergent in her mixed reality performances that incorporate and adapt gestures from traditional dance, and permeate her investigation of plant-data-body ecologies. Her personal website is rewawright.com.

In February 2019, Rewa completed a Doctorate in Art, Design, & Media at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, where her thesis – Mixed Reality Re-assembled: Software Assemblages at the Edge of Control – won a ‘Dean’s Award for Outstanding Theses’ from the UNSW Graduate Research School. She also holds a Masters of Literature in Art History, as well as a Masters in Film, TV, and Media Studies, both from the University of Auckland. Currently, she teaches in the School of Creative Industries at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Before returning to academia, she had a professional background in the television industry, editing (was an Avid editor for 10 years) and directing ( promo director for 3 years).


Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of New South Wales

Keywords

  • Augmented reality
  • Critical theory
  • Digital humanities
  • Leap motion
  • Mixed reality for live performance
  • Posthumanism
  • Software assemblage theory
  • Sound Design
  • Virtual reality
  • Visual music

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
120304 Digital and Interaction Design 30
190199 Art Theory and Criticism not elsewhere classified 40
190203 Electronic Media Art 30

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Creative Industries
Australia

Professional appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
3/1/2001 - 3/2/2008 TV Editor (Avid Media Composer) Maori Television, TVNZ and TV3, as well as various independent production houses.
New Zealand
1/2/2008 - 5/1/2011 Creative Producer Television New Zealand
New Zealand

Awards

Award

Year Award
2020 Dean’s Award for Outstanding PhD Theses, UNSW Graduate Research School
The University of New South Wales

Teaching

Code Course Role Duration
AART170 Foundations of Digital Photography
School of Creative Industries | University of Newcastle
Course Co-ordinator and Lecturer 9/2/2020 - 1/7/2020
Edit

Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Chapter (3 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2019 Wright R, 'Defacing the Balloon Dog : Art, Algorithmic Culture and Augmented Reality. Geroimenko V. (eds) Augmented Reality Games II. Springer, Cham', Augmented Reality Games II The Gamification of Education, Medicine and Art, Springer, Cham, Switzerland. (2019)
2018 Wright R, 'Interface is the place: Augmented reality and the phenomena of smartphone- spacetime', Mobile Story Making in an Age of Smartphones 117-125 (2018)

© Max Schleser, Marsha Berry 2018. This chapter explores the emergent field of mobile augmented reality (AR) art as articulated on smartphones and tablets, and the impact of these... [more]

© Max Schleser, Marsha Berry 2018. This chapter explores the emergent field of mobile augmented reality (AR) art as articulated on smartphones and tablets, and the impact of these new technologies on participatory art practices. Examples for analysis are drawn from recent geo-located mobile art by influential practitioners J. C. Freeman, J. Cardiff and G. B. Miller, W. Pappenheimer and T. Thiel. All have recently produced smartphone art apps and mobile AR apps that advance the concept of a parallel reality to the real world. These artworks are examined to articulate further the technical processes that produce art as a differentiated socio-cultural experience to the conventional gallery-based model of spectatorship. This chapter argues that this experience sits within the emergent field of posthuman digital humanities, as discussed by the eminent theorist Rosi Braidotti (2013).

DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-76795-6_12
2018 Wright R, 'Post-human Narrativity and Expressive Sites: Mobile ARt as Software Assemblage', Springer Series on Cultural Computing 357-369 (2018)

© 2018, Springer International Publishing AG. Experimental art deployed in the AR medium is contributing to a distinctly twenty-first-century reconfiguration of traditional percep... [more]

© 2018, Springer International Publishing AG. Experimental art deployed in the AR medium is contributing to a distinctly twenty-first-century reconfiguration of traditional perceptions of art, audience participation, and technological experience. This chapter examines an influential selection of experimental mobile augmented reality Art [ARt] in order to explore the progressive conceptual and ethical threads that are emerging from this relatively new but powerful cultural form. Using the concept of the ¿software assemblage¿, the author traces the movement of AR beyond its native root system in the industrial, entertainment, and the engineering worlds, and toward the rhizome of radical practice that has come to define mobile ARt. A number of artists, critical engineers, theorists, historians, and participants to AR experiences, have in recent years been contributing to the emergent field of mobile ARt, and significant advances have been made. Clearly, this book is one of them. In the context of the second edition, the author posits the software assemblage concept as an alternative and relational modality through which to converse with ARt.

DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-69932-5_20

Journal article (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2014 Wright R, 'Art, In Your Pocket: New Currents In Mobile Augmented Reality', Journal of Creative Technologies, (2014)

Conference (8 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2020 Wright R, Howden S, 'A Technique and Method for Mixed Reality Performance with Digital Augments, Gestural Data, and Living Plants', Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing (2020)

© 2020, The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG. We propose a new method, technique, and practices for performin... [more]

© 2020, The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG. We propose a new method, technique, and practices for performing with mixed reality environments and technologies, informed by embodiment and electro acoustics, and critically underscored by new materialism and posthumanism. Through the Contact projects, Wright and Howden explore a practice-based approach to live performance in mixed reality, through a novel method that combines gestural controllers, living plants and digital augments. This research investigates potential for multimodal performance in mixed reality (MR), using a novel technical set-up that combines of the HTC Vive with a Leap Motion mount, the MIDI Sprout interface for sensing the bio-electrical signals of plants, transposed to visual data in Touch Designer, and Unity 3D for generating digital augments.

DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-51626-0_29
2019 Wright R, Howden S, 'Contact/Sense', SIGGRAPH Asia 2019: International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, Brisbane, Australia (2019)
DOI 10.1145/3354918.3366368
2017 Wright R, 'Augmentations Across Virtual and Physical Topologies: Mixed Reality Re-assembled', Manizales, Colombia (2017)
2016 Wright R, 'Augmented Virtuality: Remixing the Human-Art-Machine', Lisbon, Portugal (2016)
2016 Wright R, 'Augmented Reality as Experimental Art Practice: from Information Overlay to Software Assemblage', City University of Hong Kong (2016)
2015 Wright R, 'Mobile Augmented Reality Art and the Politics of Re-assembly', Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, B.C, Canada. (2015)
2014 Wright R, 'From the Bleeding Edge of the Network: Augmented Reality and the Software Assemblage ', University of Lisbon Faculty of Arts / Faculdade de Belas-Artes da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal. (2014)
2013 Wright R, 'Exploring the Responsive Site: Ko Maungawhau ki runga', Sydney (2013)
Show 5 more conferences

Creative Work (3 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2019 Wright R, Howden S, Contact/Sense, SIGGRAPH Asia 2019, Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre (BCEC) Brisbane, New York (2019) [J1]
DOI 10.1145/3354918.3366368
2019 Wright R, Tactile Light, AD Space Gallery, Paddington, Sydney (2019)
2016 Wright R, Howden S, An Algorithmic Life, Run Run Shaw Media Centre, Hong Kong (2016)

Other (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2019 Wright R, 'Contact/Sense: Media Art for XR Performance', (2019) [O1]

Thesis / Dissertation (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2019 Wright R, Mixed Reality Re-assembled: Software Assemblages at the Edge of Control, University of New South Wales (2019)
Edit

Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 2
Total funding $19,790

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20202 grants / $19,790

ECR Inclusive Transformative Technology Scrum$14,896

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Project Team

Dr Benjamin Matthews (Lead), Dr Rewa Wright, Mr Zi Siang See, Dr Jamin Day, Ms Shanna Fealy, Dr Donovan Jones and Mr Adam Manning

Scheme Strategic Network and Pilot Project Grants Scheme
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2020
Funding Finish 2020
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

Faculty of Education and Arts New Start Grant$4,894

Posthuman Design in Industry, Art and Techno-culture.

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Scheme New Start Grants
Role Lead
Funding Start 2020
Funding Finish 2020
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N
Edit

Research Supervision

Number of supervisions

Completed0
Current1

Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title Program Supervisor Type
2020 Honours Memes in Fine Art Creative Arts, School of Creative Industries | University of Newcastle Principal Supervisor
Edit

Dr Rewa Wright

Position

Lecturer
School of Creative Industries
Faculty of Education and Arts

Contact Details

Email rewa.wright@newcastle.edu.au
Edit