Josh Conrad is a multidisciplinary artist specializing in 3D art and Augmented Reality (AR) from the Stó꞉lō Nation, located in Sumas Territory, British Columbia. He currently lives on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples – Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam). Self-taught in 3D creation, Josh’s innovative work seeks to empower Canadians to creatively connect and interact with digital art beyond the confines of physical spaces.
How did you start working in augmented reality?
My time as a screen printer sparked an interest in design and all things printed. I went to art school to complete a digital design program and later even started a print collective, a community for printmakers to share their creations. But my career path took its first big turn when one of my close friends, Aaron Kaufmanintroduced me to the field of 3D motion graphics, which is a type of graphic design also known as animation.
I ended up falling in love with 3D animations and working in this field became my daily life. I was creating album covers, videos and GIFs using sparkling shapes, colors and abstract visuals. During my freshman year, Aaron mentored me and I connected with other members of the arts community to learn more about their work. My advice to anyone interested in this field – don’t be afraid to reach out to those whose work you admire.
My professional journey took a second turn when my studio mates and I started experimenting with AR and mural work. We started working together to turn physical art into 3D. We had fun turning some of their murals into 3D objects and then eventually, as augmented reality became more accessible, into augmented reality pieces to post on social media. This allowed us to make our art interactive and give our audience the opportunity to explore reality-altering art in real, real-time environments.
I started building my AR skills by learning from scratch and finding resources when I could, especially with Meta-spark. It provided another avenue to get involved digitally and share not just my work, but the work of those in my community. I helped them bring their artwork directly into the homes of their audiences, so people could interact with shapes and textures in their own space. It helped them create more personalized interactions and engaging content.
What have been the highlights of your career?
I’ve worked on amazing projects with non-profit organizations that align with my personal values. The ability to transform works of art from physical to digital and virtually amplify meaningful causes has given me the ability to make a difference and make sense of the skills I have learned. These collaborations show how art is an important tool to support social movements and how AR can be used to spread important messages not only in an engaging way, but on a larger scale than ever before.
Earlier this year, a very good friend of mine, Priscilla Yu, led me to support a project aimed at promoting civic engagement in Canada. We have co-created a wonderful animated piece based on his works which we turned into AR. In the summer I worked with my thunder to create a immersive experience for their works that celebrate water and the environment. It was so meaningful to bring Mo’s mural to life online. Then last month I collaborated with Orange Shirt Society to develop an AR effect for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliationinspired by the experience of residential school survivor Phyllis (Jack) Webstad.
What role do you think immersive art plays in storytelling and reconciliation?
Immersive storytelling is the future. Static art cannot always be seen by everyone because it is housed in a gallery or exhibition space. We can bring this art to social platforms in an accessible way, so more people can engage with these artworks and stories.
This will allow our voices to be heard and our culture to be seen not only at the community level, but by the world. It lifts all of our voices and allows our artwork to rise and be shared in such an easy, interesting and engaging way. I think it will not only attract our young people, but other people and organizations, and it will increase interest in our stories, our cultures and our histories.
Learn more about Josh at instagram.