creating online presence through virtual collectibles

collectiblr reflects on what makes something collectible, valuable, and worth remembering in the digital age.

Through this website, I have collected 3d scans of items that are significant to me: from giraffe figurines I have accumulated over the years to wildflowers and mushrooms I have found in the wild. To me, each object represents more than a physical form as they are attached to various moments, places, and people that I have known. Through this scanning process I can capture the traces of memories as digital files. I can remember forms that once existed in the world even as my mind may forget and move on. Even as these digital forms of remembering can be just as ephemeral, impermanent, and prone to decay over time.

Equipped with augmented reality and 3d capabilities, the project echoes the nostalgia of collectible objects, observations, and memories in a speculative, virtual space. Overall, this project is simultaneously an ode to collecting and an exploration of the identities we place in physical objects and digital data, both of which are abstractions of our thoughts and memories.

Featured in Digital America Issue 19 (Spring 2022) and As I Recall at Public Access Memories Gallery (September 2022).

collectiblr aurora x menil byob digital america feature collectiblr response artist q+a public access memories

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collectiblr projected on the Menil, Houston, TX

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This project was developed using several various web frameworks including react, gatsby, three, drei, react-three-fiber, netlify and 3d photogrammetry.

about + resources used

excerpts from digital america artist q+a

DA: Your collection of artwork incorporates mathematical and technological themes, with the inclusion of motors and Arduino, reduction algorithms, 3d capabilities, and more. How do these technological/digital ideals impact and enhance your art?

VG: For me, digital mediums and technologies are a way to create forms of expression that cannot be accomplished otherwise. These digital forms of creation allow for my work to be accessible to new forms of engagement with the viewer. At the moment, I have largely been engrossed with my web-based projects, like collectiblr , where the primary viewing mechanism is through a browser rather than in a gallery or physical exhibition space.

In the end, regardless of the medium, I hope to combine and patch together seemingly disparate ideas through my projects, involving the multi-faceted quirks of our identities and environments.

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DA: Why did you decide to build three-dimensional objects instead of two-dimensional ones? How does this decision change the aura and atmosphere of the project as a whole?

VG: I decided to go with 3d objects since with collectiblr , I wanted to reflect more on how objects can materialize into digital worlds to embody our identities. 2d images are quite prevalent and striking on their own, however I wanted to also utilize the 3D/ AR capabilities that are now accessible via browser, especially on mobile devices. For the immersive AR experience of being able to view the objects in any space/room, I found that it made sense to do a complete 3d scan of the collectibles and place them into collectiblr .

By placing them in this new context, I hope that the additional dimension evokes a new aura, allowing the web visitors to interact with these personal objects on the website and in their own environments as well.

DA: As collectiblr unfolds for the viewer, the infrastructure of the piece fascinates as well. Could you tell us a little bit more about the transition of ideas and development to the final product? What difficulties did you face and overcome?

VG: I am fascinated by the way we collect various items and try to organize and cluster them into collections. Objects and their contexts can often contain so many details and interpretations and the relation between these grouped items can add even more significance to the collection as a whole. Such collections have been such a fundamental part of our history, symbolizing cultural significance, social status, and much more. However, in our past, these collections have primarily been physical ones and I wanted to speculate more on the increasingly digitized sides of our identities.

As someone who has grown up collecting and curating collections of digital stuff on the internet, I imagined this idea of documenting physical objects that had emotional significance to me in a form that was viewable on the web.

Over various experiences, I have been keeping an eye on some of the photogrammetry tools which allow you to capture and photograph objects (this project used polycam!) and the various 3D and AR viewers that could be used to bring these objects to life (three.js and model-viewer!). I experimented a lot with finding the right tools and first tested out the basic website with a small selection of objects and then proceeded to add more to build out the project.

The 3d capture process is much easier and quicker than the tools I have used in the past, however one challenge is that it is quite time consuming to ensure that all your captures render correctly since you have to take photos from all angles of the object. There are some imperfections that can be seen in some of the captures in the project but I find them to be an interesting part of the transfer process. These holes and glitches are simply a small part of the translation process in fetching them from the physical world.

digital america: response to collectiblr | by Ellie Holdsworth

In collectiblr (2021), Vidya Giri reflects on what makes objects collectible and worth remembering “with consideration of the presumed permanence of data and the contrasting ephemerality of attention in the internet age.” The viewer/user is taken on a journey that combines the nostalgia of collectible objects, observations, and memories in a three dimensional and virtual space. The work transports these physical forms into the digital, confronting viewers with thoughts on physicality, materialism, and memories.

Whether it be as trivial as a plastic grocery bag or a family heirloom, every human being inflicts personal value on the objects that they own. We are ultimately wired to connect physical, material items with experiences and moments in order to bring our past memories to life. In her piece collectiblr (2021), artist Vidya Giri explores this correlation between tangible objects, or “collectibles,” and the value that they hold for individual identities. While taking the concept a step further through her choice of medium, Giri adds an additional dimension to this theme by virtualizing the connection between memory and material matter.

collectiblr both catalogs and brings to life different collectible items that Giri incorporates throughout the website. The viewer can see four collections of giraffes, mushrooms, wildflowers, and other plants. Each collection contains 3D models of the items, allowing users to “hold” the artist’s memories. From a viewer’s perspective, I can clearly see how Giri plays with the connection of memories and objects by creating a greater distance between them. Rather than receiving a tangible experience with these objects, the viewer can only see the collectibles three-dimensional representations through their personal screen. collectiblr emphasizes the intimacy one can have with niche objects, however, it also demonstrates how the virtual portrayal of these valued objects makes their connection more impersonal. Simultaneously, Giri’s piece creates a space for objects that may not physically be “collectible.” Although the golden milkcap or the Texas bluebonnet are not tangible objects owned by Giri, they are still representations of her identity and establish her personal sense of nostalgia. Giri’s virtual creation of non-collectible objects demonstrates how the memories of an object hold value, but a virtual representation of said object allows for a certain level of tangibility that wasn’t previously possible.

collectiblr's portrayal of valued objects and their connection to personal identity is a theme similarly explored in non-digital works such as Robert Therrien’s Red Room (2000-2007). Therrien’s installation consists of various objects that may seem random at first glance, but ultimately represent memories of his own past. The tightly packed monochrome space created by Therrien and the 3D collections built by Giri both deliver the same message that items seen as insignificant to the viewer hold a great level of value by their owner. What separates Therrien’s work from Giri’s is that collectiblr takes this concept a step further through its virtual dimension and ultimately encourages greater analysis by the viewer. The three-dimensional replicas of physical items allow for more channels of exploration than simply interpreting objects in their tangible state.

Although collectiblr addresses the generalized topic of material objects and their apparent value to individuals, it also invites for a greater interpretation of this connection. I believe this piece represents a barrier between people and the value of their collectibles through virtual reincarnation. However, Giri’s work simultaneously creates a bridge for those objects that are solely a memory with the value they place on an individual’s identity and past experiences. Not only is collectiblr focused on a theme that every individual can relate to, but it also invites conflicting views on the representation of material objects in a virtual manner.