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Artists use AR to display politically-charged art in provocative places

Billed as the first truly interactive fine-art augmented reality experience, this may be the birth of a new medium

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Politically-charged art has been cropping up in provocative locations around the world over the past few weeks. An immigration-themed installation near the Statue of Liberty and a floating sculpture along the Rio Grande that memorializes a woman shot by a U.S. Border Patrol Agent are among the works.

The art part of 4th Wall, a project spearheaded by artist Nancy Baker Cahill and her collaborators and billed as the first "truly interactive fine-art augmented reality experience that puts users in control of how, when, and where they experience art."

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Guerrilla street artists have always chosen provocative locations for their projects. Traditionally, creating a work of street art alters or defaces the surrounding environs. That act of alteration can be a powerful statement, but it's also polarizing and can overshadow subtler messages an artist is attempting to convey.

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Works created on the 4th Wall exist in virtual reality and are freely accessible to anyone with a mobile device. They don't physically alter or deface the surrounding environment, but the juxtaposition of the art and the surrounding area (the Statue of Liberty in the case of a piece by Debra Scacco and the site of a controversial shooting in the case of a piece by Beatriz Cortez, for example) lends emotional heft and new dimensionality to the viewing experience.

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Cahill and her collaborators are conceiving4th Wall as a platform that can be used by artists freely and opens up historical and culturally relevant sites, turning them into canvasses.

Not all the art placed using the platform is deliberately controversial. Artist Shizu Saldamando has placed works in personally significant locations, for example. One piece was placed above her favorite Los Angeles Karaoke spot. "This piece is an homage to my friends and to the friendship between two of them," she says. "They both love to Karaoke (as do I)."

You can check out the 4th Wall app at www.4thwallapp.org/.

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