Snap and The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) today released a new collection of AR monuments. The third and final series of Snap and LACMA’s Monumental Perspectives features five AR lenses that mark cultural throughlines in various LA communities.
As a multi-year initiative between Snap and LACMA, Monumental Perspectives assembles artists and technologists to create AR experiences that educate and immerse users in the rich history of LA communities. This exemplifies AR’s potential for both education and geo-relevance.
“This project showcases how artists and AR creators can come together [in ] innovative and impactful ways,” said Snap co-founder and CTO Bobby Murphy. “We’re proud to continue this work with LACMA and highlight some of the histories of Los Angeles communities.”
Show Rather than Tell
To show rather than tell, here’s more about each lens, including links to try them (summaries courtesy of Snap)…
Victoria Fu: 1871
In light of the current anti-Asian sentiment and racially motivated acts of violence in the United States, Victoria Fu’s 1871 recognizes the Chinese Massacre of 1871 in Los Angeles. The concept of Fu’s piece is realized within its visual form: it is in the shape of an inverted, upside-down monument. Viewers peer down into the clouds through the abyss, or tomb-like portal to other worlds, that takes the shape of basic monument styles, shifting as they move. The void simultaneously acknowledges the current absence of a physical monument and the impossibility of any monument to stand in for the horrors of actual events. Recorded audio of a conversation in English and Mandarin between the artist and her mother about 1871 explains what the monument commemorates. The site, Los Angeles State Historic Park, is only a mile from the incident and adjacent to contemporary Chinatown whose residents, as well as the general public, might stumble upon the piece and learn about 1871.
Yassi Mazandi: The Thirty Birds, 2023
Yassi Mazandi is an experimental multimedia artist working in porcelain, clay, bronze, paper, and augmented reality. While her latest AR work The Thirty Birds tells a standalone story, it relates to and is located next to a physical installation by Mazandi on the north side of the Resnick Pavilion at LACMA. That kinetic sculptural work, Language of the Birds, consists of 100 suspended abstract bronzes and takes its name and theme from an epic 12th-century Persian poem by Farid al-Din ‘Attar, a parable about a mystical quest for God, a spiritual home, or even our own highest good. The mission is undertaken by 100 birds seeking a worldly ruler—the mythical Simurgh. Many birds perish along the way until 30 remain. The Thirty Birds is Mazandi’s interpretation of the ending of ‘Attar’s poem describing the epiphanic realization of the surviving birds at their journey’s end: they are the Simurgh (literally “30 birds” in Persian). Through the medium of AR, Mazandi renders the birds as if they are in a dream state when they reach that moment of truth. The work also calls to mind today’s key issue—climate change—and the ways in which it imperils many avian species and contributes to human migration, often accompanied by dangerous journeys and inhospitable reception.
Rashaad Newsome: Self Inventions, 2023
Self Inventions pays homage to the spirit of perpetual regeneration and innovation in Black culture. Rashaad Newsome’s shape-shifting robotic figure set to an original score and poem reflects the resilience of Black people in the face of ongoing struggle. The optical effect of transformation from one form to another employs fractal geometry, an aesthetic that, along with the designs of the robotic figures themselves, is inspired by African art and its early use of abstraction. Often used as a term in computer science, abstraction here not only serves as a visual tool but illustrates a tactic in Black culture’s perpetual state of transformation. Newsome draws comparisons between the labor performed by robots and the unpaid, compulsory service Black people have had to perform historically. In the face of untenable circumstances, Black culture has not only survived and adapted, but has found a way to flourish. This is the exciting yet vexing task of creating Blackness, a process that many of the residents in the Exposition Park area have long been engaged in. The figures in Self Inventions are the “engineers of themselves,” paying homage to the legacy of Black resistance, carrying forward a history of endless innovation.
Rubén Ortiz Torres: Dead Heads
Rubén Ortiz Torres has responded to a site in Lincoln Heights where a number of sculptures have been stolen from their plinths. Among the bronze busts that have been taken from the site are important figures in Mexican modern history, including General Ignacio Zaragosa, poet Ramón López Velarde, and Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. Ortiz Torres reimagines the role of monuments in the 21st century, especially in a moment where identity can be hybridized through mobile apps like Snapchat. In Ortiz Torres’s project, the site’s empty plinths become an opportunity to envision a new form of memorialization, one in which Mexican historical figures like Doña Josefa Dominguez overlap with cultural icons like L.A. Dodger Julio Urías, and large-scale statuary such as Olmec heads, Northwestern totems, and depictions of Buddha. While mourning the desecration of a significant site of cultural exchange, the work presses the viewer to consider new approaches to historical sites and iconography, through which we may more actively participate and envision the future.
Alison Saar: Rise
Alison Saar’s monument, Rise, creates space for the viewer to remember those lost, and those who survived the abuses of the colonization and commodification of women—specifically those of Black, Brown, and Indigenous heritage. Rise responds to the current attack on reproductive rights and threats made to the sovereignty of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and female bodies, and serves as a catalyst for dialogues which will bring these issues to light, inspiring compassion and activism. In Saar’s work, the goddess Yemaya—a patron spirit of women in the Yoruba religion who commands creation, water, rivers, lakes, streams, and shipwreck survivors—is surrounded by swarming catfish, doves, cowrie and conch shells, wields a cane knife, and blows on a conch shell, calling women to resist the forces that want to control their freedom and reproductive rights, especially women of color who have historically had their bodies colonized. Rise is accompanied by an excerpt read and written by author Desiree C. Bailey. Her poem Chant for the Waters and Dirt and Blade is followed by original music played on the conch shell by Avila Santos.