Public Art in the Virtual Sphere

Physical and Virtual versions of the Goddess of Democracy sculpture.

LOS ANGELES, February 23 — CAA Panel: Public Art Dialog: Public Art in the Virtual Sphere

During this panel John Craig Freeman told a story, the most remarkable testament to Augmented Reality (AR) as an art & culture medium that I’ve ever heard: During the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, protesters created “The Goddess of Democracy,” a 10-meter-tall (33 ft) statue. A couple of decades later, 4Gentlemen created a virtual Goddess of Democracy and placed an Augmented Reality version at the precise location of the original in Tiananmen Square. That’s very cool. But what is extraordinary is that during the protests in Tahrir Square, Cairo last year, 4Gentlemen took the digital Goddess of Democracy object and AR placed her in physical Tahrir Square. Incredible!


Mary M. TInti blogging oldschool! πŸ™‚

β€’ Mary M. Tinti, de Cordova Sculpture Park & Museum

John Craig Freeman, "American Plutocracy"

β€’ John Craig Freeman, Emerson College


Christiane Paul's website "Intelligent Agent"

β€’ Christiane Paul, The New School

Ben Rubin, "Listening Post"

β€’ Ben Rubin, EAR Studio

JOHN CRAIG FREEMAN opened the presentations by inviting us to “Think of the media as a kind of virtual reality.” He described his project Operation Greenrun II, where the work itself was, in a way, secondary to the media coverage of it.

Freeman noted that monuments and memorials are located in town squares as an acknowledgement of shared sacrifice and shared values. Today AR offers the possibility of creating a new form of town square. He went on to characterize Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles as the oldest theme park in existence, a sort of safer, alternative experience for tourists. “It’s entirely possible that Walt Disney’s idea for Disneyland formulated during his visits to Olvera Street and nearby Chinatown.”

In Border Memorial Freeman has been placing AR Day of the Dead figures near the Mexican / American border where people have died in attempted border crossings. Below is a Google Earth video visualization of the data.

Freeman also described LA Re.Play, an AR festival around Los Angeles in conjunction with CAA.

CHRISTIANE PAUL then spoke of Locative Media Art and Context Awareness. Of art in the public sphere on mobile devices. She described Lalya Gaye’s 2002-2004 wearable Sonic City as an example of Location-Based Storytelling and Julian Bleecker’s Art Cache Machine as public space used as canvas or backdrop for telling stories.

In Track the Trackers, she described an interactive project that facilitated a ground community informing itself of surveillance.

With the Double Happiness Jeans Company, a mixed reality (physical world & virtual world) project had virtual workers producing jeans that physical people could ultimately wear. Then Second Front stormed in and attempted to organize laborers in the virtual factory. This was seen as a conceptual move, but some have argued that the virtual workers were paid about US$ 0.30 / hour for their labor and were suffering under “real” abusive conditions.

Katherine Moriwaki and Jonah Brucker-Cohen’s 2012 work America’s Got No Talent analyzes and critiques the “Tweetback-loop” of social media manufactured celebrity.

Mary M. Tinti, Christiane Paul, Ben Rubin, John Craig Freeman

BEN RUBIN presented a number of his projects that may or may not be “public art” in the tranditional sense, but which use public media as their data or source material from which to create experiences in novel or traditional exhibition spaces. In Listening Post he live-sampled thousands of chat rooms to feed a physical space installation of diaphanous text.

At the Minneapolis Public Library Rubin used the titles of books just checked out or in to “paint” with moving light on the libraries moving elevator shafts.

During the panel’s Q&A it was suggested that we’re moving through a fundamental cognitive transition like the transition from orality to literacy… now a transition from literacy to electricity or post-literacy… and that new forms are being invented for this new culture.

Here’s a different, but related talk by John Craig Freeman. It’s a nice intro to Augmented Reality (AR)

As a virtual public artist my work invites avatar communities to express their identity, explore their culture, and demand their civil rights.

5 thoughts on “Public Art in the Virtual Sphere

  1. Thanks so much for this great shout-out, Vaneeesa. It was a most fruitful conversation and we’re so glad you enjoyed it, too! Lots of thoughtful terrain to explore when it comes to Public Art in the Virtual Sphere.

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