Shifting Skin, 2013

Shifting Skin is an elegant statement on the collapsing boundaries between material and virtual via the connecting metaphor of skin. The uncannily flattened images of human surface were captured using a re-purposed flatbed scanner held directly against the subject’s body. When viewed through an app on a mobile screen, a 3D topography appears to project out of the print, a landscape of peaks and valleys describing the tonal scale within the surface of the subject, the terrain of scars, tattoos, skin tone and texture.

This direct interplay between the physical print and virtual object creates a tangible dynamic to be physically explored by the viewer. Although augmented reality is an internet application, the experience is locative and embodied. The viewer must be physically in front of the trigger image and move in an arc before the print to trace the contours of the 3D virtual object.

Shifting Skin generated  international attention when first exhibited at Deakin University Art Gallery in 2013, stemming from a retweet by cyberpunk author William Gibson and a report by that appeared in the Huffington Post. The work has since featured in the Sydney Mardi Gras visual arts program, ABC TV news, and the uber hip Theorizing the Web conference in New York City. Shifting Skin was described as a program highlight at Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery and Wyndham Cultural Centre.


Bennett, A 2013, Shifting Skin, giclee prints with augmented reality overlay



Kingston Arts

Kingston Arts 2017, MIDSUMMA ‘muliebrity & other collaborations’ Alison Bennett


Dore, M 2014, ‘Art and architecture plays with reality’, ArtsHub, 7 Nov.

Augmented Reality Art

Vincs, Bennett, McCormick, Vincent & Hutchinson, 2014, ‘Skin to Skin: Performing Augmented Reality’, in Augmented Reality Art, Springer Series on Cultural Computing, p.161-174.

M/C Journal

Bennett, A 2014 ‘Persona’ (GIF cover image), M/C Journal, 25 Jun 2014
“The editors [Kim Barbour, P. David Marshall, Christopher Moore] would like to thank Alison Bennett for creating an original gif for the cover image of this issue. More of Bennett’s work, including her augmented reality images of tattoos from the internationally acclaimed exhibition Shifting Skin, can be found at her website”


Priest, G 2014, ‘In Profile: Alison Bennett, Shifting Skin’, RealTime
“For the viewer it’s this moment of border crossing that is most exhilarating, but as the technology becomes increasingly utilised for commercial means […], the initial thrill may begin to normalise. Then it will be the content that becomes most important and artists like Bennett will hopefully lead the way, bending reality in ever more conceptually challenging ways.”

Australia Council Experimental Arts

Experimental Arts 2014, ‘Shifting Skin: the art of augmented reality tattoos’, Australia Council Experimental Arts, Twitter, 27 Feb.


Fairly, G 2014, ‘Skin comes alive as tattoos rise as 3D landscapes’, artsHub, 25 Feb.


ABC TV News report, ‘Skin Deep Body Art’, 25 Feb 2014

ABC News online

Collins, A 2014, Tattooed technology exhibit gets under the skin as part of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras visual arts festival’, ABC News online, 27 Feb
“… Bennett explores ideas around augmented reality and the collapsing boundaries between the physical and digital worlds.”


Bennett, A 2013, ‘Shifting Skin’, AR[t]4, Netherlands, 19 Nov
“Watching visitors to the Shifting Skin exhibition as they contorted and danced in an arc before the exhibition prints highlighted the implications of augmented reality for the embodied viewer.”

Huffington Post

Huffington Post video, 5 Oct 2013

International viral media coverage of Shifting Skin

Following a retweet by science fiction author William Gibson and a video report on, Shifting Skin received viral media coverage.


Prakash, N 2013, ‘Augmented Reality Brings Tattoos to Life’,, 19 Aug.

William Gibson

retweet by science fiction author William Gibson, 25 Jul 2013 @GreatDismal photographic prints overlaid with augmented reality inspired by Spook Country — Alison Bennett (@bennett_alison) July 25, 2013

More media coverage here:

PDF of exhibition catalogue featuring essay by Kate Warren

About Alison Bennett