Mother/Home/Heaven is a magic-mirror augmented reality installation that overlays digital assets—3D models, video, poetic spoken word, and soundscape—on objects found at the Markham site, as a point of departure to consider gender, space and place, privateand public, loss, longing, time and place. Created with the Unity game engine and the Vuforia augmented reality plug-in, the experience uses fractal and non-linear narrative to bring real objects and accounts—notably an archive of amazing diaries—to life, while also using fictional, whispered secrets and ghosts to suggest what might haunt the neatly ordered shelves of the General Store. Our AR projects work to position real world objects as living archival material. When we entered the General Store, we encountered shelf after shelf of everyday objects relating to domestic material culture: teapots, kerosene lamps, spools of ribbon, a wood burning stove and parlour games, etc. And the first time we entered the space we were immediately struck by its regularity and stillness. It was impossible to resist imagining these mundane objects as haunted by a vocal, desperate, and less ordered narrative. We used the objects we found as a cypher, then, through which to conjure messy everyday lives, playing with the tension between the calm and regularity of the public objects on the shelves and the curious, lonely, worried, violent, in-love and sometimes desperate and forgotten hands we imagined might have touched them.
Having been given access to thousands of pages ofdiary entries allowed us a factual window into the lives of Markham residents in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century and we used these to structure our storytelling. The written reflections ranged from lists of daily chores, to discussions of the rhythms of pioneer life, to more lyric meditations on God and existence, birth and death. One particular entry from September of 1867 entitled “Heaven” became a guiding theme for the project. The opening line of this entry read: Someone said that the three most beautiful words in the English language are Mother, Home, and Heaven. The three words bring to our notice three phases of life… In response to this entry, we decided to organize our augmentations around temporality and gender, domesticity and riffs on immortality. The shelves and objects of the General Store became visual ‘trackables’ to be detected by the iPads’ cameras. When visitors held up an iPad—their magic looking glass—they were positioned to see both the real world object and to unlock a series of connected story fragments we’d inferred and projected from the diaries: a rich imagined memoryscape held by and within these everyday objects for over a century, accessed through a magical eye.