The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is partnering with Art Production Fund for the Washington, D.C., iteration of “Liberty Bell,” a new public art project by artist Nancy Baker Cahill.
Photo courtesy Art Production Fund
The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is partnering with Art Production Fund for the Washington, D.C., iteration of “Liberty Bell,” a new public art project by artist Nancy Baker Cahill. On view starting July 4, “Liberty Bell” uses augmented reality and will be presented simultaneously in six U.S. cities: Boston; Charleston, South Carolina; Philadelphia; Rockaway, New York; Selma, Alabama; and Washington, D.C.
Commissioned by Art Production Fund in partnership with 7G Foundation and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, a project of the Fund for the City of New York, “Liberty Bell” is an animated, monumental and richly sonorous augmented-reality (AR) drawing in 360 degrees. The public artwork will be geolocated at a series of sites and experienced on smartphones through Baker Cahill’s free 4th Wall app. This project, which is two years in the making, lives at the vibrant intersection of public art, social consciousness and tech.
In this polarized and tumultuous election year, many concerns persist around the founding principles of American freedom and democracy. Inequality, structural racism, injustice and the ability to vote are chief among them. Inspired by the original cracked Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, the drawing will hover beyond viewers, swaying with the rich and layered sound of bells tolling. Its soundscape will morph from the rhythmic lulling of a tolling bell into a harmonious and dissonant sequence of ringing as it becomes increasingly unpredictable and arrhythmic. Ranging from analog to synthetic, the sounds were compiled from a diverse array of historical moments and locations. The richly textured brushstrokes and bell sounds resemble loosely knitted threads that unravel and come together in an uncomfortable but cohesive moment. They reflect the evolution and transformation of liberty over time into the complex reality people face today. Baker Cahill chose July 4, Independence Day, as a launch date to advocate for justice, civil rights and freedom in the U.S.
AR is impermanent, ephemeral, invisible to the naked eye and leaves no environmental trace. It is accessible to a broad audience through the ubiquitous use of smartphones and tablets. Programming will include topical conversations by cultural leaders and community members from all six cities as they relate to current events. Providing a platform for conversation and access to the artwork is a crucial component of this project.
In Washington, “Liberty Bell” will be geo-located over the Reflecting Pool between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. It is intended to prompt viewers to consider challenges to their individual rights while providing an opportunity for thoughtful reconciliation through a shared and democratized public art experience. As “Liberty Bell” sways above the pool, AR shadows will be cast over the water. The image will create a literal and metaphorical reflective experience for viewers as they are invited to question the very concept of liberty.
“As the national museum of modern and contemporary art, the Hirshhorn is pleased to partner with Art Production Fund to introduce ‘Liberty Bell,’ Nancy Baker Cahill’s augmented-reality artwork to the National Mall, a location rich in the history and symbolism of America’s ongoing pursuit of freedom,” said Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu.
“From its origins in American history, ‘liberty’ was only available to a certain demographic and came at great expense to others,” Baker Cahill said. “You can’t have a conversation about freedom and not talk about the history of slavery and inequality in the United States. A bell can be a warning or a celebration; something spiritual or a wordless means of communication. In an age of pandemic, surveillance, injustice and disinformation, who is actually free? That’s the conversation we need to have.”
“We are thrilled to present ‘Liberty Bell’ in six different U.S. cities this summer,” said Casey Fremont, executive director of Art Production Fund. “While adhering to social-distancing guidelines, it feels crucial to bring this important artwork safely to the public. Through a visual and sonic AR experience, Baker Cahill gives viewers the opportunity to reflect upon their personal experiences of liberty, freedom, injustice and inequality. We are honored to present this poignant work during such a remarkable time.”
“Liberty Bell” will weave a common thread between all six cities underscoring people’s interconnectedness and shared cultural inheritance. These historically significant and charged locations comprise an unprecedented activation spanning the Eastern seaboard of the United States.
For more information and details on public programs, visit www.artproductionfund.org and share using #LibertyBellAR @ArtProductionFund and @NancyBakerCahill.
Visitors to the National Mall can experience the work by positioning themselves at the edge of the Reflecting Pool facing the Washington Monument, with the Lincoln Memorial behind them, and downloading the free 4th Wall app, which does not collect any user data. This site is wheelchair accessible. The duration of the work is approximately 1 minute 30 seconds, and it is recommended that viewers experience the full animation with sound. When viewing the work, visitors are asked to adhere to all social-distancing guidelines as instructed by the CDC.
Baker Cahill is a multidisciplinary artist and the founder and creative director of 4th Wall, a free augmented-reality (AR) public art platform. Through 4th Wall, she initiated Coordinates, an ongoing series of curated and site-specific AR public art exhibitions, including Defining Line in Los Angeles and Battlegrounds in New Orleans. She received an “Impact Maker to Watch” award at the Los Angeles City Hall and was named by the Los Angeles Times as one of the 2019 Faces of the Year, ARTS. She is one of 10 artist scholars in the Berggruen Institute’s inaugural 2020 Transformations of the Human Fellowship.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the national museum of modern and contemporary art and a leading voice for 21st-century art and culture. Part of the Smithsonian, the Hirshhorn is located prominently on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Its holdings encompass one of the most important collections of postwar American and European art in the world. The Hirshhorn presents diverse exhibitions and offers an array of public programs on the art of our time—free to all, 364 days a year (closed Dec. 25). For more information, visit hirshhorn.si.edu/@hirshhorn.
Art Production Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to commissioning and producing ambitious public art projects, reaching new audiences and expanding awareness through contemporary art. Past projects include Elmgreen & Dragset, “Prada Marfa,” Valentine, Texas; Ugo Rondinone, “Seven Magic Mountains,” Las Vegas; Jeff Koons, “Seated Ballerina,” Rockefeller Plaza, New York City; Zoe Buckman, “CHAMP,” LA; Raul de Nieves “When I Look In To Your Eyes I See the Sun,” Miami; and Lucy Sparrow “Lucy’s Delicatessen on 6th,” Rockefeller Center, New York City. For more information, visit artproductionfund.org/@artproductionfund.
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