Candidate Statement

3. A Candidate Statement providing a concise narrative that reflects, characterizes, contextualizes, and assesses the candidate’s teaching, scholarly/artistic/professional work, and service.

This statement is organized into four parts based on the criteria for promotion and tenure outlined in article 7 Assessment of Tenured/Tenure Track Faculty of the Emerson College Faculty Handbook. As stated in this article, the areas of assessment for promotion are (1) teaching; (2) scholarship and creative/professional work; (3) service; and, (4) long-term usefulness to the College.

(1) Teaching

I came to Emerson College with over twelve years of teaching experience in higher education beginning in 1990 at the University of California, San Diego where I spent four years as a lecturer. At UCSD, I taught courses in all levels of photography and introduced the use of digital technologies into the curriculum. Additionally, during this time period, I was an adjunct faculty member at community colleges throughout San Diego County and I consulted with the State of California on how to integrate new technologies into art curricula.

In 1994, I accepted an Assistant Professor position at the University of Florida where I was appointed to introduce new technologies into the Creative Photography Area at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Within a year of my appointment I was asked to coordinate the area. Although the University of Florida was a fine institution with many committed and dynamic faculty and students, I felt that my research and creative work would flourish better if I were located in a large urban area. In 1998, a year before I was scheduled to apply for tenure, I began a job search focusing on cities where rigorous work in digital art was being done.

In September of 1999, I joined the faculty at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell as an Associate Professor where I ran the Digital Media Art curriculum and taught courses in a wide range of digital media including new media and computer animation.

In 2002, I was offered my current position as Associate Professor at Emerson College. This position not only fulfilled my career objective to locate my work in a large urban area better than UMass Lowell, I also found the faculty at Emerson to be extremely engaged in their practices, the students to be ambitious and determined, and the administration to be forward thinking and supportive of my goals.

My Student Course Evaluations scores are typically in the mid fours and the comments are usually quite positive. My courses require that I maintain extensive knowledge of subject areas, which are constantly evolving and become more complex over time. I enjoy the challenge of keeping up. It is what maintains my enthusiasm about the subjects. Every semester I am learning new things to teach my students.

I am a stickler for details and I am careful to observe all academic regulations concerning course schedules, examinations, class attendance and the submission of grades. I also pride myself in punctuality. I am always at my scheduled office hours, for least one hour for each class per week. Additionally, I try to make myself available to students whenever I am on campus, usually Monday through Thursday, and I am always available via email.

My grading is rigorous and I am not afraid to fail students when they do not meet the standards laid out in the syllabus. I prefer however, to intervene early with students who struggle. My reputation has always been one of accessibility, and fairness in examinations and grading.

All of the courses I teach are technically intensive. The students here at Emerson expect me to provide them with extensive technical instruction and I expect them to achieve a high level of technical proficiency. Having said that, as an artist and educator, I believe that it would be selling our students short to just be providing them with technical training. Rather, I insist on a balance between the students’ development of technical expertise and the development of their creative imaginations. My assignments are framed by both technical as well as conceptual objectives and I maintain rigorous standards for both craft and content in students’ work. Furthermore, I believe it is Emerson’s commitment to liberal arts education that sets us apart from some of our competitors, especially in the field of new media. I require additional theoretical reading when appropriate and all students are required to do a fair amount of writing even in production courses. Ultimately my students are evaluated based on what they have to say in their work as much as how well they say it.

I have taught a total of eight different courses here at Emerson College. Each is detailed below. Links to all syllabi and examples of student work are available in the Syllabi and Selected Course Materials section of this dossier.

VM 120 Foundations in Visual and Media Arts Production

I am teaching VM 120 Foundations in Visual and Media Arts Production for the first time this coming fall, 2012. This is an entry level undergraduate course which is required of all VMA majors, usually taken in their freshman year. It is typically the fist hands on course work VMA undergraduates undertake. I volunteered to do so in order to help introduce incoming VMA students to the broader spectrum of visual and media arts production options available within the department. Although great attention will be paid to the standard objectives and expected outcomes, my emphasis will be on the creative process in the context of some of the big ideas in visual and media arts throughout history. For instance, assignments will center around Semiotics; Sequence, Time and Space; Montage; and Soundscape. Students will not only get a firm introduction to the tools of visual and media arts production, such as equipment and software, they will be challenged to use them creatively and expressively. Given my particular area of expertise, students will be exposed to emergent technologies and new forms which are developing in the field.

VM260 Introduction to Digital Media

VM260 Introduction to Digital Media is designed to introduce sophomore undergraduate students to the theory and practice of digital media production. It stresses the conceptual, aesthetic, and technical concerns of digital media, emphasizing creativity and familiarity with the material. Areas include introductions to Web design and development, animation, interactivity, graphics and imaging, as well as project management, interface design, and user experience. Students produce creative works based on instruction in the technical aspects of the material, completing the production stages from concept development to design, prototyping, and publishing. The emphasis in the course is on the creation of meaningful works using the materials. While there is instruction in the technical aspects of new media, the major areas of concern are concept, content, critique, and aesthetic decisions.

One student wrote, “John’s definitely a passionate dude. Although he leaves a lot to be figured out on our own, I think that he broadens our own awareness of our abilities as artists. I think that it was very important that we learn how to individually define “art” for ourselves, since it’s become so much of a meaningless buzzword as of late. His discussions are relevant, and I enjoyed learning about pixel ratio and color theory too, so he teaches us what’s most important and expects a high level of student initiative. Furthermore, he was always available to meet out of class, and very knowledgeable in the field. I’m hoping that I am assigned John or someone like John as a faculty advisor this winter.”

VM 261 Computer Animation

VM 261 Computer Animation introduces undergraduate students to the fundamentals of 3-D Modeling and Animation. I cover the material in a series of intensive instructional sessions where we move through the concepts with the entire class using hands-on examples. This helps assure students involvement in the learning process. I provide support files and examples in a series of demo folders, which the students access through Emerson’s networked Courses Folders. The students have responded very positively to this approach, because we are able to move through a large volume of material quickly and efficiently, maintaining an atmosphere conductive to learning. When asked What aspects of this instructor’s teaching did he or she find most beneficial?, one student wrote,“The days where we would lecture in class were extremely beneficial, especially when we started getting into more detail as we progressed through the semester. The one on one time was also very helpful, mainly because everyone’s projects are so different and every needed their specific problems addressed.” Of all of the teaching styles I have experimented with, this is the most effective way to clearly present the abstract ideas and theories related to computer animation. Required reading assignments and a series of tutorials supports the instructional sessions. The tutorial work is done primarily outside of class. Students bring the results in to every class so that, after the day’s instruction, I can review their progress and help them through trouble spots. They are required to complete the work as it is presented and then make individualized modification based on what they have learned. Each finished movie they turn in is unique. As we near the end the instruction sessions, students are required to propose a final project. The proposals are presented to the class and we discuss them and make recommendations. Once the students’ proposal has been approved, and they have completed the required tutorial work, they will spend the remaining duration of the semester working on their final projects. The course culminates in the presentation and critique of all final projects during our scheduled exam period. The students complete the course with an original portfolio-ready animation.

One student wrote, “Craig is an amazing professor. He is not just a professor, he is a mentor. He does everything in his power to encourage a love of art and expression in his students, and really promotes activism and participation in the digital arts community. He is working hard for the state of digital arts at Emerson, in Boston/Cambridge, and around the world. We were very lucky to have access to someone so eager to teach and involve us!”

VM 363 Advanced Computer Animation

VM 363 Advanced Computer Animation is the second course in the Computer Animation sequence. Although we continue the instructional sessions, tutorials and reading, mostly delving into issues relating to character design and animation. The emphasis of the courses is in producing a major, semester long project. The expected outcome is that students will develop their 3-D modeling and animations skill level to a point where, by the end of the course, they are able to work independently with the technology to produce original work in advanced production or practicum type senior classes.

One student wrote, “Craig is constantly available to help students with their projects and will actively go out of his way to solve even the most obscure problems Maya can spit out. He is inquisitive about ways to improve the New Media program, both technically and ideologically.”

VM 364 3D Computer Gaming

VM 364 3D Computer Gaming provides students with the fundamentals of game design and theory. Students learn to create and import assets, develop objectives, script behaviors and action, and build game levels. Students complete the course with an original portfolio-ready single player game.

I developed and taught this course as a VM 420 Topics for two year trial period. It was proposed as a regular course offering in the fall of 2010, vetted by the VMA Curriculum Committee and unanimously approved by the faculty on December 10, 2010. It was assigned a number and appeared for the first time in the 2011-2012 Undergraduate Catalogue.

One student wrote, “Craig is always willing to help out with a project, even if it’s during his office hours or via email. He makes himself very available. I really like that he puts the notes that he uses to guide us through tutorials during class on the course wiki as well, so we can duplicate parts again at home. Each lesson covers useful core concepts and he definitely gave us a good base to start developing our skills on our own.”

VM 470 Advanced New Media Projects

VM 470 Advanced New Media Projects provides an opportunity for senior VMA students, working in computer animation, interactive media, motion graphics, digital photography, networked performance, audio, or other forms of new media, to create advanced portfolio work. Projects, both collaborative and individual, are developed in the context of peer-based critique and analysis. The focus is on using new technologies for creative self-expression. Students complete the course with an original portfolio-ready project.

Like the 3D Computer Gaming Course, I developed and taught Advanced New Media Projects as a VM 420 Topics for two year trial period. It was designed as a capstone experience for the undergraduate New Media curriculum. It was proposed as a regular course offering in the fall of 2010, vetted by the VMA Curriculum Committee and unanimously approved by the faculty on December 10, 2010. It was assigned a number and appeared for the first time in the 2011-2012 Undergraduate Catalogue.

One students wrote, “Craig is my favorite professor at Emerson. He’s a wonderful person who is always willing to help and is always understanding. He’s incredibly knowledgable and passionate about the subject matter and his own work is truly exceptional.” Another wrote, “Craig is one of the most enthusiastic instructors I’ve had. He’s not only interested in his students’ class work, he’s interested in their futures beyond the classroom, which is great.”

VM 625 Computer Animation (Grad)

VM 626 Advanced Computer Animation (Grad)

Although the structure of these two graduate level courses are similar to the undergraduate Computer Animation courses above, the conceptual and research expectations are much more rigorous and commensurate with graduate study.

One student wrote, “I remember the first time I opened up Maya and thought that it all seemed so foreign, but Craig really made it accessible to us, perhaps because he was so generous with his time and attention.” Another wrote, “He is very involved with individual students and their progress on projects. He always offers creative and technical help and is very enthusiastic and honest with feedback.”

Teaching Beyond the Classroom

In addition to my regular courses, I have also Chaired and served as a Second Reader on several VMA Master’s Projects.


I typically advise between 30 and 40 undergraduate students. I prepare diligently for this important activity. I contact all of my advisees prior to the advising period to arrange meetings. I will prepare my recommendations prior to individual meetings so that I am abreast of any issue, which may arise.

I regularly write letters of recommendation on behalf of my most talented students, playing a pivotal role in professional job and graduate study placement.

Extra-curricular Activities

Along with Professor Brooke Knight, Eric Gordon and, I helped organize the “Floating Points” lecture series.

In the spring of 2008, “Floating Points 5: Mixed Realities,” took place in the Bordy Theatre with a companion exhibition in the Huret and Spector Gallery. The program included artist Pierre Proske, Scott Kildall, Victoria Scott, Neill Donaldson, Usman Haque, Ai Hasegawa, Georg Tremmel, Michael Takeo Magruder, Drew Baker, David Steele, Burak Arikan, and myself with a panel discussion, including Drew Harry with moderator Gene Koo and Eric Gordon.

In the spring of 2009, “Floating Points 6: Games of Culture | Art of Games” included film screenings, a symposium and workshops. Participants included Asi Burak, Adriana de Souza e Silva, Jesper Juul, Friedrich Kirschner, Marcin Ramocki, Jason Rohrer, and Mushon Zer-Aviv.

“Floating Points” was very valuable asset not only to our students, but also to the visibility of our program nationally and made up the center piece of extra-curricular activities in New Media at Emerson. Unfortunately, all funding for “Floating Points” was discontinued in 2010 after a successful six year run.

(2) Scholarship and Creative/Professional Work

I am a public artist with over twenty years of experience using emergent technologies to produce large-scale public work at sites where the forces of globalization are impacting the lives of individuals in local communities. My work seeks to expand the notion of public by exploring how digital networked technology is transforming our sense of place.

“Border Memorial: Frontera de los Muertos” by John Craig Freeman, augmented reality public art, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, 2012.

I have produced work and exhibited it around the world including in Venice, Istanbul, Xi’an, Belfast, Los Angeles, Beijing, Zurich, New York City, Taipei, São Paulo, Warsaw, Kaliningrad, Miami, Bilbao, Havana, Atlanta, Calgary, Buffalo, Boston, Mexico City, London and San Francisco. In 1992 I was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. I have had work commissioned by the ZERO1 Biennial, and My work has been reviewed in The New York Times, El Pais, Liberation, Wired News, Artforum, Ten-8, Z Magazine, Afterimage, Photo Metro, New Art Examiner, Time, Harper’s and Der Spiegel. Christiane Paul cites my work in her book Digital Art, Second Addition, as does Lucy Lippard in The Lure of the Local, and Margot Lovejoy in Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age. My writing has been published in Rhizomes, Leonardo, the Journal of Visual Culture, and Exposure.

If Andy Warhol set out to create a distinctly American art form in the twentieth century, I identify with those who seek to create a distinctly global art form in the twenty-first.

I am not referring here to international art. International art is, in many ways, the antecedent of what I hope to accomplish. International art can be exhibited at biennials and in museums worldwide and its meaning remains more or less the same, no mater where it is located. My work relies on site specificity for context and its meaning is derived from its location. I have developed the technology and a methodology that allows me to make work anywhere on earth.

My approach is heuretic in that, I seek to invent new art forms which respond to, and make use of, the transition from literacy to electracy: the new cognitive paradigm which Gregory L. Ulmer predicts will emerge as we shift from a culture of print literacy to a culture saturated with electronic media and the Internet. It is in this spirit of invention that I hope to make a significant, substantive and original contribution to the field of art.


Whereas the town common was once the quintessential public place to air grievances, display solidarity, express difference, celebrate similarity, remember, mourn, and reinforce shared values of right and wrong, the public square is no longer the only anchor for interactions in the public realm. That geography has been relocated to a novel terrain, one that encourages exploration of cyber arts, new media, augmented reality, mobile location based monuments, and virtual memorials -all with profound implications for art in the public sphere and the discourse that surrounds it.

Operation Greenrun II

Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant, 1989.

In the second half of the twentieth century, Rocky Flats was one of a network of seventeen national nuclear weapons facilities operated under the direction of the Department of Energy. It was the only plant that manufactured the plutonium detonation systems, or triggers, for the nation’s nuclear arsenal throughout the Cold War.

Rocky Flats Colorado, 1989.

In the summer of 1989, Rocky Flats was the subject of an FBI investigation. The resulting inquiry led to the suspension of plutonium operations and made public a history of gross environmental mismanagement, including the detection of sixty-two pounds of plutonium dust in the ductwork of the ventilation system (enough to build six nuclear weapons). To this day it is considered one of the most contaminated sites in the world.

Empty billboards on Highway 93, Rocky Flats, Colorado, 1989.

Before I had arrived in Boulder, a group of environmentalists known as Citizens Against Billboards on Highway 93 had organized a successful boycott against a group of billboard that were lined up in a row, just outside the front gates of the Rocky Flats plant. The ads, located along one of the most scenic parts of the drive along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, were considered an eyesore. Plutonium contamination is, of course, invisible. Unable to convince local businesses to advertise on the billboards, the owner was driven out of business and the billboard structures stood empty for several years.

Empty billboard with Rocky Flats and Denver in the distance, 1989.

This image shows the proximity of the billboard structures to the Rocky Flats plant, with the water tower, and the Denver skyline just twelve miles down wind. Aside from this nondescript water tower, which often appeared in television news reports, the invisible radio-toxic waste at Rocky Flats had no image.

Sketch prints of "Operation Greenrun II," by John Craig Freeman, 1989.

I recognized the billboards potential for public art and began making proposals using early Macintosh desktop computing technology, for what would become the “Operation Greenrun II,” public art project.

Fabrication of "Operation Greenrun II," 1990.

Each of eleven 10′ X 40′ billboard faces were made of over 2,000 individual bitmap images printed on a simple office laser printer. Keep in mind that commercial billboards were hand painted at this time. The technology to print a billboard would not exist for another five years.

"Operation Greenrun II," by John Craig Freeman, digital laser prints on billboards, Rocky Flats, Colorado, November 14, 1990.

Over the course of about a mile, the billboards read “Today,” “We Made,” “A 250,000 Year,” “Commitment.” The half-life of plutonium is a quarter of a million years.

"Operation Greenrun II" media coverage, 1990-91.

Think of the media as a kind of virtual reality, which it is, that can be intervened in. The decision to shutdown Rocky Flats for good was made in 1991, during the media firestorm that this project created, proving that art does have a role to play in tangible political change.

The reason I am returning to this project after over two decades is that it demonstrates an early interest in emergent technology as art practice and public art as Intervention, intervention in both institutions of high culture and intervention in government policy and the institutions of the nation state.

It is important to point out that you are not being asked to assess any work prior to the fall of 2006 when I submitted my successful dossier for Tenure at Emerson College, which I was awarded with strong support in May of 2007. My discussion here of the work at Rocky Flats is meant to provide context and to build a narrative arc in my career activities to date.

Place-Based Virtual Reality

Imaging Place

In 1997, four years before the initial release of Google Earth’s predecessor Earthviewer, I began work on “Imaging Place,” a place-based virtual reality project that combines panoramic still photography and video, with three-dimensional virtual reality to document situations where the forces of globalization are impacting the lives of individuals in local communities. I continue to work on this project in various forms to this day. I will focus here on iterations of the project, which have been exhibited since 2007.

Screen recording excerpt from “Imaging Place: The Miami River,” by John Craig Freeman with theory by Gregory L. Ulmer, interactive virtual reality installation, 1997 - 2007.

The goal of the “Imaging Place,” project is to develop the technologies, the methodology and the content for truly immersive and navigable narrative, based in real places around the world. It includes hundreds of individual locations and hours of content from Cape Verde, Beijing, Taipei, São Paulo, Kamloops British Columbia, Warsaw, the U.S./Mexico Border, Kaliningrad, Niagara, New England, Appalachia, Florida and more.

“Imaging Place,” is inspired by the work of Guy Debord and the Situationist International, and their concept of psychogeography. [1] Not long after its founding in Paris in 1957, the Situationist developed the idea of the dérive, a kind of open passage walk or drift. Participants were encouraged to ignore the normal traffic flows and circulations of planed urban developments and instead, moved through a city in a way that followed its moods. The goal was to track the cities emotions —the feeling and atmosphere of a place, to find what they called the plateau tourné. A plateau tourné is a turntable or hub —a vortex or center of power, where forces come together to create strong atmosphere.

You can read more about how “Imaging Place” relates to psychogeography in Maayan Glaser-Koren’s paper “Drifting and Imaging Beijing,” which was delivered at the 2011 International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) in Istanbul.


Installation view of “Imaging Place,” by John Craig Freeman, interactive virtual reality installation, “Language/Environment,” Museum of Contemporary Art Beijing, 2007, Beijing, China.

Imaging The Miami River image sequence.

Screenshot sequence from “Imaging Place: The Miami River,” by John Craig Freeman, 2007.

The city of Miami is a quite literally a threshold between the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Miami River is a hinge for this connection. Air and cruise ship traffic aside, the Miami River connects the city to over 72 ports of call throughout the hemisphere with most of the traffic operated by small shipping contractors in vessels of 100 tons or less.

Overseeing this process are over 32 local, state and federal agencies, many with competing agendas, which are responsible for the regulation of the river zone. Through this bureaucratic entanglement, drift the denizens of the zone, immigrants, legal and otherwise; marginalized peoples; idiosyncratic personalities; rich and poor.

In spatial terms, The Miami River clearly exemplifies the dynamic and interdependent relationship between the smooth space of the sea and the striated space of the city grid explored by Deleuze and Guattari in 1000 Plateaus. The conditions of the river zone demonstrate an urban space where there is a mixture or “holey space” that exists as constantly shifting degrees of interpenetrating social and physical realities. Everywhere there is leakage and contamination of one kind of space into the other. Like the Haitian boats listing at port along the river leaking bilge and taking on water, the unchecked pollution problems of the city seep into the river along its largely ignored watershed.

Screenshot sequence from “Imaging Place: The Miami River, Swing Bridge” by John Craig Freeman, 2007.

“Imaging Place” grows out of an ongoing collaboration with Greg Ulmer and his investigation of what he has referred to as electracy. [2] Electracy describes the kind of literacy or skill and facility necessary to exploit the full communicative potential of new electronic media such as multimedia, hypermedia, social software, and virtual worlds. In his book Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy, Ulmer writes, “electracy is to digital media what literacy is to print.” It encompasses the broader cultural, institutional, pedagogical, and ideological implications inherent in the transition our society is undergoing.

In Applied Grammatology: Post(e)-Pedagogy from Jacques Derrida to Joseph Beuys, Ulmer extends the work of Jacques Derrida and his study of grammatology: the theory and history of reading and writing. [3] Derrida’s work focuses on the transition from oral culture to literate culture. [4] It turns out that we know quite a bit about this transition, which occurred or continues to occur all over the world. Ulmer uses what we know about the transition from orality to literacy in order to make predictions as to what we might expect from the transition from literacy to electracy.

In December of 2005, I was invited by Museu de Art Contemporênea (Museum of Contemporary Art) da Universidade de São Paulo (University of São Paulo) to participate in “Acta Media In Signo São Paulo (International Symposium of Media Art and Digital Culture)” and to produce “Imaging Place: São Paulo” in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. On December 10th, I delivered a public lecture titled “Realidade Virtual para Representar Lugares (Virtual Reality Represent Places)”. This lecture was translated into Portuguese. On December 12th and 13th, I conducted a two-day workshop titled “Oficina De Tecnologia Digital E Geografia Imersiva (Workshop of Digital Technology and Immersive Geography)” at the Museum and assembled a team of local collaborators. “Imaging Place: São Paulo” was added to the larger “Imaging Place” project and exhibited in a variety of venues starting in 2007.

Screenshot sequence from “Imaging Place: São Paulo,” by John Craig Freeman, 2007.

The São Paulo work focused on a small historic building in the city’s center known as the “Castelinho da rua Apa (the Little Castle of Apa Street.)” In 1937, the castelinho was the site of a gruesome multiple murder and suicide. The details of what happened the night of May 12th that year remain unclear, as everyone involved died. The story survives as a kind of mysterious urban legend. As the user navigates from the chaos of the streets of São Paulo’s to the interior the castelinho, she experiences a shift from a quasi-documentary nonlinear narrative to a deeply psychological, dreamlike state.

Ulmer’s theoretical work on electracy and my attempts to give it form, are informed, in part, by apparatus theory. Derived from Marxist film theory, semiotics, and psychoanalysis, apparatus theory was a dominant theory within cinema studies during the 1970s. It suggests that three elements interact in a matrix to construct culture. The first element is the technology that emerges within a society. The second is the practices and institutions that are developed to make use of the technology. The third is subject or identity formation on the part of the individuals who are living in this new apparatus and begin experiencing their lives in a different way.

Although we tend to think of technology as nuts, bolts and circuit boards, in oral culture, the technology was spoken language. At its most basic level, language was the technology developed to augment and extend human thought and memory.

The institutions, which grew out of spoken language, were based on mnemonic ritual. The epic poem rhymed because it made it easier to remember. Vast collective knowledge could be passed down from generation to generation by maintaining ritual.

Oral people experienced identity in relation to the clan or tribe. There was no sense of ‘self,’ as we understand it today. The experience of selfhood was a construct of that literate invention, the novel. If you wanted to punish an oral person, you would simply ostracize him from the community, making him, in effect nonexistent.

In literacy, the technology which emerged was, of course, alphabetic writing. Collective knowledge could be passed along in books. There was no longer a need to remember the entire story. Entire generations could forget and knowledge could still be retrieved, as long as someone remembered how to read. The result was that human memory was expanded exponentially.

Aristotle’s lyceum becomes the literate institution of schooling, which becomes today’s universities.

“Imaging Place: British Columbia” focused on the Soft Wood Lumber Treaty between the U.S. and Canada. In 2001 the U.S. government decided to prop up its own inefficient timber industry by imposing a large punitive tariff on Canadian softwood lumber imports. Since Canada and the U.S. both signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Canadian government went to the World Trade Organization and filed a complaint. What followed was three years of panels and arbitrators looking at the case, finding the U.S. actions illegal under NAFTA. The U.S. position remains that it won’t accept any decision that rejects U.S. claims, and if Canada wants to end this dispute they have to agree to U.S. terms. Hundreds of miles from any border, issues of globalization dominate the landscape.

With Weyerhaeuser, a U.S. softwood lumber plant, as a backdrop, Michael Jarrett moves through various plant operations drawing correlations between wood pulp and the history of writing.

Screenshot sequence from “Imaging Place: British Columbia, Weyerhaeuser,” by John Craig Freeman, 2007.

In the spring of 2006, after the “Imaging British Columbia: Weyerhaeuser” project, I was invited back to Kamloops to deliver a public lecture, conduct a workshop sessions with the Community/University Research Alliance (CURA) of Thompson Rivers University, to further develop the “Imaging British Columbia” project as a pilot project for CURA.

During this stay in Kamloops, I worked with the local Secwepemc (Shuswap) people to produce a new phase of the “Imaging Place: British Columbia” project that focuses on the stories of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The school was created in 1893 by the Canadian government in cooperation with Roman and Protestant churches to “Christianize and civilize” the Secwepemc.

Screenshot sequence from “Imaging Place: British Columbia, Kamloops Indian Residential School,” by John Craig Freeman, 2007.

In “Imaging Place: British Columbia, Kamloops Indian Residential School,” users can navigate through this imposing building where they will encounter several generations of former students recounting their experiences at the school.

Screen recording from “Imaging Place: British Columbia, Kamloops Indian Residential School,” by John Craig Freeman, 2007.

“Imaging Place” –and my work with augmented reality to follow, attempts to make movement through a space be an act of reasoning.

The industrialization of literacy has led to a crisis of memory. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there were certainly plenty of things to know. It was, however, still possible to organize that collective knowledge, line it up in neat rows on shelves, and index it alphabetically. By the end of the twentieth century, industrialized forms of knowledge production led to an exponential increase in the amount of things to know, –a glut, of sorts. In his book, Everything is Miscellaneous, David Weinberger describes the breakdown of the Dewey Decimal System of Classification in the face of this glut, and the failure of taxonomies of knowledge in favor of the category ‘miscellaneous.’ [5] In the twenty-first century, there simply has to be a different way of organizing knowledge. We cannot build libraries big enough in an electrate paradigm.

Like spoken language in orality and alphabetic writing in literacy, the Internet holds the promise of augmenting and extending human thought and memory. People no longer use precious neurons remembering the banal. Can you remember your best friend’s phone number? Our cell phones have become cybernetic, prosthetic devices designed to extend memory. We now carry the World Wide Web in our pockets. How soon will we line up to have it implanted in our brains?

In June 2006, I was invited to teach a course at Shih Hsin University in Taipei. While in Taiwan, I created “Imaging Place: Taipei.” The project leads the viewer from the Ciyou Temple in the Northwest of the city thru the Raohe St. Night Market, as it is coming to life in the evening.

Screenshot sequence from “Imaging Place: Taipei,” by John Craig Freeman, Roahe Night Market Taipei, 2006.

In Taiwan, anywhere there is a temple —there is a night market. This relationship marks and mixes the center of Taiwanese social, economic and spiritual life. It may be too soon to tell if the 7/11 down the street threatens that relationship.

Since the brain exists in a three dimensional space, it relies on spatial principles in its functions. When considered in this light, the hyperlink, that fundamental building block of the World Wide Web, owes its success to the way it reflects synaptic brain function and neuroplasticity. The brain does not index thought and order it alphabetically. Instead, it moves from idea to idea through association, not unlike the act of Web browsing. Jumping from one idea to another by association is like crossing an implied space.

Chora is a philosophical term described by Plato meaning a space, or place in space. [6] In his dialogue Timaeus, Plato differentiates between being and becoming. Being is intelligible but not perceptible. It describes abstract concepts, such as the essence of Justice. Becoming, on the other hand, is perceptible but not intelligible, seasons come and go, people live and die. Plato asked, how do being and becoming come together? He used the term chora to describe the space, or receptacle, where being and becoming interact. Chora is neither intelligible, nor perceptible. It is a third kind, where order emerges from chaos, coherence from disassociation, sense from nonsense. Chora is like the winnowing basket that is used to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Ulmer writes, “Many commentators have declared the need for a new logic native to new media, but few have indicated how to invent it. Heuretics (the logic of invention) provides one proven (literate) procedure for bootstrapping from one apparatus to the other. This method involves working analogically. The key analogy is with the Greek invention of metaphysics, meaning specifically (in Aristotle’s terms) the invention of a category system. Electracy needs a mode of classification that does for the digital image what the concept did for the written word (definition as a practice organizing things according to essences and accidents).”

Chora is to electracy what topic is to literacy, the organizing space and practice through which rhetoric relates living memory to artificial memory. In our work, chora gathers multiple topics associated with a geographical region, or zone, into a scene whose coherence is provided by an atmosphere. This atmosphere or mood has an emergent quality, resulting in an unforeseeable way from the combination of topics interfering and interacting with one another. Choramancy is the practice of identifying and documenting Chora.

On August 8 to 22, 2005, I traveled to U.S./Mexico Border region at Tijuana and San Ysidro. I spent August 14 to 19 producing the fieldwork media for the “Imaging Place: the U.S./Mexico Border” project. There are three public issues I am exploring with on the U.S./Mexico Border. First is the contradictions and bigotry of U.S. Immigration policy toward Latin America. Second is the labor and environmental exploitations of North American Free Trade Agreement, and the third is global human trafficking, slave and indentured labor, and the sex industry.

Screenshot sequence from “Imaging Place: the U.S./Mexico Border,” by John Craig Freeman, 2007.

As you will see, the U.S./Mexico Border is a recurring subject in my work.

On May 25, 2007, two years after executives from Google attended an exhibition of “Imaging Place” at Evos Arts in Lowell Massachusetts the first version of Google Streetview was released.

Imaging Place in Second Life

Electracy does not mean illiteracy. Just as literacy was built upon the shoulders of orality, electracy will be built on the shoulders of literacy. However, there is cause for anxiety. The institution, which is native to electracy, is entertainment, including video games; social networking; theme parks; cinema etc., not schooling, and identity is becoming avataric.

Screenshot sequence from “Imaging Place: The U.S./Mexico Border SL,” by John Craig Freeman, interactive mixed reality installation and virtual performance, Second Life, 2009.

One way to understand electracy is to examine the differences in the types of skills required in negotiating and communicating through the apparatus, and how those skills differ from literate skills. Some may say that text messaging is devolving the English language. I prefer to withhold value judgment. There will be both positive and negative aspects to electracy, gains and losses. Regardless, it takes a certain acquired skill to communicate effectively via texting, and the skills required to handwrite a letter and send it as traditional mail, is of little help.

Another thing to consider is where people are acquiring these skills. It may be sometime before electracy is taught in school, if ever. Instead young people are acquiring electrate skills in their entertainment experience. Despite problems with internet addiction and attention deficit disorder, there is no question that spending hours upon hours playing video games during those critical years when the brain is forming, is leading to the development of a physically different brain, a brain that is capable of assimilating and associating vast amounts of layered information in an instant.

I am not a supporter of the technological deterministic aspects of Marshall McLuhan’s work. [7] I believe that we all have agency in what electracy becomes. Could it be, however, that the phenomenon of multitasking is a very human response to the information glut described above?

If text messaging is an example of a basic electrate skill, Internet migration might be an example of a more advanced skill. Social networks come and go, not because people come and go, but because communities migrate. MySpace failed to maintain its user base because Facebook did it better. But, if Facebook overdoes the exploitation of its community as objects of crass advertising, that community will pull up stakes and migrate to the next social site.

I have made a deliberate effort to develop art practices, which can easily be migrated across new technologies as they emerge.

Starting in 2006 I began implementing versions of “Imaging Place” in Second Life. The “Imaging Place” work was conceived of in the language of the network. Bandwidth issue always hampered my ability to post the work on the web and there was no good solution for populating the work with people. I have always aspired to make the work inhabitable.

Screen recording excerpt from “Imaging Place SL,” by John Craig Freeman, 2009.

Rather than slowing my progress, I continued to produce work and develop my methodology in the field. I have amassed an enormous archive of material from around the world and Second Life allowed me to distribute that body of work into the social network where it was intended. The social component was very exciting in massively multiplayer online communities. The encounters with individuals were of enormous significance to the development of an art practice within these networks. I could get instant feedback and collaborate with likeminded people.

At its height, dozens of scenes from the “Imaging Place” archive were constructed in various locations around the Second Life grid. When a denizen of Second Life first arrived at an “Imaging Place SL” scene, he, she or it walked across a large satellite image of Earth, providing continuity from earlier versions of “Imaging Place.” The avatar could follow a thin red line which led to an adjacent higher level platform made of a high resolution aerial photograph of specific location from around the world. Mapped to the aerial images were networks of nodes constructed of primitive spherical geometry with panoramic photographs or video texture mapped to the interior. The avatar could walk to the center at one of these nodes and use a first person perspective to view the image, creating the sensation of being immersed in the location. Streaming audio was localized to individual nodes providing narrative content for the scene. This content includes stories told by people who appear in the images, theory and ambient sound. When the avatar returned to the Earth platform, several rotating enter signs provide teleport links to other “Imaging Place” scenes located at other places within the world of Second Life.

In early versions of “Imaging Place,” the derive was represented by dolly video shots from point to point, and the plateau tourné by panoramic still photography. In Second Life the avatar did the drifting and panoramic spheres represented the plateau tourné.

Another important idea that I was experimenting with at the time was the notion of mixed reality, which brings the virtual into direct juxtaposition with the real, making the boundary between the two unstable. In “Imaging Place: Wall Street,” visitors to the NY Arts gallery in SoHo entered the installation and on the wall in front was a human-scaled projection of the virtual world. At her feet was a set of foot pedals for navigation. The experience of jumping from the nonsensical game-like space of Second Life to the immersion of the panoramic video nodes depicting real places with serious content is already disorienting. In the context of a gallery or museum, the presupposition of intent is stripped away, as, unlike the regular inhabitants of virtual worlds, visitors would stumble into the experience, unsuspecting and uninitiated.

Installation view of “Imaging Wall Street,” interactive mixed reality installation and virtual performance, NY Arts Broadway Gallery, New York, 2009.

“Imaging Place” is an attempt to invent a truly electrate form of artistic expression. Since the project anticipates the possible role that virtuality and network technology might play in memory enhancement and augmentation, I turned to Fredric Jameson’s idea of the cognitive map. [8]

A cognitive map is a mental image that we create in order to navigate and negotiate the world and our everyday lives. It is practical, in that it includes directions to work, for instance, go two blocks and turn right… but it is also abstract and metaphorical. All of our formative experiences have a place on the cognitive map. In that respect, a cognitive map is like a spatial representation of our identities. Cognitive maps allow us to reduce cognitive load, enhance recall, learn and remember.

The oldest known formal method of using spatial locations to remember is the “method of loci” or “memory palace,” a mnemonic device used by students of rhetoric in ancient Rome to enhance memory.

If you imagine a very familiar place, your living room perhaps, and visualize placing what ever it is you need to remember on the coffee table, as if it were an object, when it comes time to recall, it is simply a matter of walking through the living room, in your minds eye, and picking the object up off the table.

I took this concept of mixed realities to the next level in the exhibition “Mixed Realities” at the Huret & Spector Gallery at Emerson College in the spring of 2008. Commission by, my contribution was “Imaging Place: Beijing,” which focused on the demolition of traditional neighborhoods of Beijing to make room for the building that was taking place the summer before the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. These neighborhoods often referred to as hutongs, have a rich history reaching back hundreds of years. The word hutong comes from the Mongolian word hottog, meaning water well. The center of the traditional community was the well. The word has come to refer to the narrow alleyways used to navigate the complexes made of traditional courtyard residences, which have no frontage other than a simple door in a brick or plaster wall. Moving through these neighborhoods is like negotiating a labyrinth.

In the installation, a web-cam captured live video of the user and transmitted it to the head of an avatar, so that other avatars in the virtual space could see and talk to the person navigating the project from within the physical gallery. I was often present in the virtual space, in my avataric form, to guide users through the experience, giving the project a real-time performative component.

Screenshot of avatar with live webcam, “Imaging Place: Beijing,” by John Craig Freeman, interactive mixed reality installation and virtual performance, “Mixed Realities,” Ars Virtua, Second Life, 2008.

Installation view of “Imaging Place: Beijing,” by John Craig Freeman, interactive mixed reality installation and virtual performance, “Mixed Realities,” Huret & Spector Gallery, Boston, 2008.

Screenshot view from inside a panoramic node of Xizhimen hutong, “Imaging Place: Beijing,” by John Craig Freeman, interactive mixed reality installation and virtual performance, “Mixed Realities,” Ars Virtua, Second Life, 2008.

Opening Reception “Mixed Realities,” interactive mixed reality installation and virtual performance, Ars Virtua, Second Life, 2008.

All previous narrative form is linear. Books, films, even simple stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. This technology makes possible narrative form that is structured over space rather than time. Since the work is spatial instead of linear, people could navigate from the functional hutong; through the demolition zone; passed the construction sites; and into the contemporary Chinese metropolis, in that, or any other order.

Marc Prensky coined the term digital native in his article Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, published in 2001. [9] The optimist in me believes that this generation will one day become bored of the ‘toy’ part of video games. When that day comes, they will still expect to be able to be immersed in, explore, and have adventure and social interaction in, their collective knowledge base.

Imaging Place: Belfast

“Imaging Place: Belfast” is the latest iteration of the “Imaging Place” project. Produced as a user activated art installation and virtual environment, the work was created on location along the peace line that separates the Protestant and Catholic communities of West Belfast in 2009. “Imaging Place: Belfast” is a standalone application produced using video game authoring technology.

Screen recording excerpt from “Imaging Place: Belfast,” by John Craig Freeman, 2011.

Today, the cognitive map is in crisis. Some would say that the world is no longer representable. The image has displaced the real in what Guy Debord referred to as the Society of the Spectacle. [10] There is no longer anything real to compare the spectacle to. The real has been obliterated by Simulacrum: an image without the substance or qualities of the original. [11] Accordingly, it is impossible to visualize the causes of any particular problem. The cognitive map needs to be made whole again. On the one hand, “Imaging Place” embraces this uncomfortable condition, but on the other, it is an experiment to test if the practice of Choramancy can at least move us in the direction of a new, holistic and electrate cognitive map.

Internet Drifting, Addiction and the Virtual Flâneur

“Virta-Flaneurazine,” by John Craig Freeman and Will Pappenheimer, is an artists collective and faux pharmaceutical start-up, working on the development of a potent programmable mood-changing drug for online virtual worlds and other social networks.

Screenshot from “Virta-Flaneurazine,” by John Craig Freeman and Will Pappenheimer, digital, networked mixed reality installation and performance, 2009.

Identified as part of the Wanderment family of psychotropic drugs, it causes the user to aimlessly roam the distant lands the Internet. Virta-Flaneurazine was developed to treat Wanderlust Deficit Disorder (WDD), or Internet Addiction, an increasingly common disorder characterized by rote repetitive Internet use and the inability of individuals to depart from their daily routines in their physical and virtual lives. As the prograchemistry takes effect, users find themselves erratically navigating to random Internet locations, behaving strangely, seeing digephemera and walking or flying in circuitous paths. We developed a clinical trial program in order to test if Virta-Flaneurazine is effective in treating WDD and to determine if it is safe for human consumption. The clinical trials include an installation and participatory performance in a clinic setting that dispensed and evaluated the drug’s effects on volunteer subjects.

Trailer “Virta-Flaneurazine,” by John Craig Freeman and Will Pappenheimer, digital, networked mixed reality installation and performance, Fringe Exhibitions and Second Life, Los Angeles, 2009.

Public Art in the Virtual Sphere

For the past eight years, I have worked on the corner of Tremont and Boylston Streets overlooking the historic Boston Common, the first public park in the United States.

Boston Common, Google Maps, 2011.

I walk across the park every morning. As I do, I often contemplate the role that the town square plays in shaping of political discourse and national identity formation. As the location of the public sphere, the town square is where we air grievances, display solidarity, express our difference, celebrate our similarities, remember and mourn.

Public hangings took place at the Old Elm Tree on the Common until 1817, an example of the public reinforcement of the shared values of right and wrong, no matter how misguided. The Common still maintains a tradition of soapbox oratory and we even have a town crier, who exchanges weather forecast and sport scores for spare change.

Nineteenth century stereoscopic view of the Old Elm Tree in the Boston Common. The tree was destroyed by a storm in 1876.

This is why monuments and memorials are located in town squares. As Greg Ulmer points out in his book Electronic Monuments, monuments are an expression and acknowledgment of sacrifice on behalf of shared values. [12]

Etching of Mary Dyer being led to her execution on Boston Common for spreading Quaker principles on June 1, 1660.

Since the dawn of literacy, the public square has been the geographical anchor for the public political discourse. As Benedict Anderson argued in Imagined Communities, the nation state was made possible, in part, by the printing press, including the invention of associated forms and practices such as the novel, contributing to the creation of national identity. [13] Newspapers and the rise of a mass reading public within industrialization are part of this history.

In the early 1990s, we witnessed the migration of the public sphere from the physical realm, the town square and its print augmentation, to the virtual realm, the Internet. In effect, the location of public discourse and the site of national identity formation have been extended into the virtual world. As Bernard Stiegler, among others, has argued, this virtual dimension, with its industrialization of collective memory, is again transforming the “We,” away from the nation state to a new collectivity that he fears will be an ersatz global “America.” [14]

This threat/promise is a context for experiments in virtual and augmented reality, which allows us to overlay this virtual public sphere onto our experience of the physical, cultural world. It is important to keep in mind that the practices of the virtual public sphere have to be invented, just as the equipment is invented. What is the future of “We” in electracy? It is open to invention.

ManifestAR: An Augmented Reality Manifesto

Visualization of the ManifestAR Flag on Mount Everest, ManifestAR, 2011.


ManifestAR is an international artists collective working with emergent forms of augmented reality as interventionist public art. The group sees this medium as a way of transforming public space and institutions by installing virtual objects, which respond to and overlay the configuration of located physical meaning. Utilizing this technology as artwork is an entirely new proposition and explores all that we know and experience as the mixture of the real and the hyper-real. Physically, nothing changes, the audience can simply download and launch an Augmented Reality Browser app on their iPhone or Android and aim the devices’ camera to view the world around them. The application uses geolocation, marker tracking and image recognition software to superimpose computer generated three-dimensional art objects, enabling the public to see the work integrated into the physical location as if it existed in the real world. The ManifestAR collective and individual members have produced projects, exhibitions and interventions worldwide, including in New York, Venice, Istanbul, Beijing, Cairo, Copenhagen, Tokyo and Berlin.

No augmented reality beyond this point, photomontage by Sander Veenhof, 2010.

We Are in MoMA

ManifestAR formed after the groundbreaking uninvited augmented reality intervention at the Museum of Modern Art in the fall of 2010. We had been invited to participate in New York’s Conflux Festival. In preparing our proposal, we began to imagine mounting an exhibition of augmented reality art in MoMA without asking permission. As we were conducting some preliminary research, we came across an image of a fictitious sign from inside MoMA that Sander Veenhof had posted on the Internet, which read “No augmented reality beyond this point.” We contacted Veenhof and a plan for the first augmented reality intervention was hatched, “We AR in MoMA.” We contacted the artists we knew who were pioneering augmented reality as an art form. Many constitute the ManifestAR membership today.

"We Are in MoMA" ManifestAR, Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 9 2010.

It is now the artist, not the curator, who decides which artworks can be placed where. Art world power structures, the nature of art exhibitions and discourse, are all called into question, even the border between art and life itself. Moreover, public space is now truly open, as artworks can be placed anywhere in the world, without prior permission from government or private authorities.

"We Are in MoMA" ManifestAR, Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 9 2010.

On December 1, 2010, Alexander Fidel wrote about the “We Are In MoMA” intervention in his article for the Arts section of the New York Times, titled “Art Gets Unmasked in the Palm of Your Hand,” as did Eduardo Porter in “Is that a dagger I see,” for the Opinion section on October 21.

The ManifestAR Manifesto was published in Wired on January 27, 2011, in “Augmented Reality: Manifest.AR, an augmented art manifesto,” by Bruce Sterling.

Augmented Reality as Public Art Practice

With the emergence of augmented reality technology on widely used mobile devices, the distributed placelessness of Internet public discourse and identity formation came crashing back down to place and it was time for me to once again migrate my art practice into this new realm.

Border Memorial: Frontera de los Muertos

The “Border Memorial: Frontera de los Muertos,” is an augmented reality public art project and memorial, dedicated to the thousands of migrant workers who have died along the U.S./Mexico border in recent years, trying to cross the desert southwest in search of work and a better life. This project allows people to visualize the scope of the loss of life by marking each location where human remains have been recovered along the border and the surrounding desert.

“Border Memorial: Frontera de los Muertos” by John Craig Freeman, augmented reality public art, near the Lukeville, Arizona border crossing in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, 2012.

Based on a traditional form of woodcarving from Oaxaca, the virtual object used to mark each of over 3,000 individual locations in Arizona alone, consists of life sized, three-dimensional geometric model of a skeleton effigy or calaca. Calacas are used in commemoration of lost loved ones during the Mexican Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead festivals.

"Border Memorial" Calaca Model, 2011.

I imported the database, which was acquired from the Arizona medical examiners office, into Google Earth to create this visualization.

Visualization of the "Border Memorial" Data in Google Earth, 2012.

Imagine now, the entire mobile Internet, and its physical manifestations’ of place, as a world wide public square.

Screenshot taken on location, “Border Memorial: Frontera de los Muertos,“ by John Craig Freeman, augmented reality public art and memorial, Arizona, 2012.

In January 2012, I drove across southern Arizona for field-testing and to document as many of the individual data points as possible. It was sobering work.

“Border Memorial: Frontera de los Muertos,” on the road to Ajo along Arizona Highway 86, January 18, 2012.

Screenshots taken on location, “Border Memorial: Frontera de los Muertos,” by John Craig Freeman, augmented reality public art and memorial, Arizona, 2012.

The “Border Memorial” derives inspiration from public monuments and memorials such as Maya Lin’s “Vietnam Veterans Memorial.” In the Identity episode of the PBS program “Art 21,” Lin’s memorial work was described as “tactile experiences of sight, sound, and touch. They activate a full-bodied response on the part of the viewer, connecting us with the material aspects of their construction as well as with the private memories and thoughts that transform past events into awakenings in the present.” The Vietnam Veterans Memorial helped to shape national identity on an individual level with the intimate, one-on-one encounter embodied in the touch of a single name. People experience a similar intimate one-on-one encounter as the calaca appears on the screen of their mobile device. In a sense, they hold a memory of that individual in the palm of their hand.

Additionally, the project draws on a rich tradition of large-scale public art in the form of the earthwork and land art of the twentieth century and the experience of this work through a contemporary form of secular pilgrimage. Perhaps this project might one day be regarded as the twenty-first century successor to Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, James Turrell’s Roden Crater, Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field, Michael Heizer’s Double Negative, and other seminal artworks of the American desert southwest.

Tiananmen SquARed

In 1989, students from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing erected a 10-meter tall plaster statue during the uprising in Tiananmen Square. Known as the Goddess of Democracy the gesture taunted government officials to tear it down, which of course, they did.

The 1989 student uprising in Tiananmen Square with the "Goddess of Democracy" in the background, by Catherine Henriette/Afp/Getty Images, June 2, 1989.

“Tiananmen SquARed” is a two part augmented reality public art project and memorial, by the anonymous ARt collective 4Gentlemen, dedicated human rights and democracy worldwide.

The "Goddess of Democracy" model with reference image, 2011.

The project includes a virtual replica of the “Goddess of Democracy,” placed back in Tiananmen Square, where she belongs.

Screenshot of “Goddess of Democracy,” by 4Gentlemen, augmented reality public art, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, 2011.

The other indelible image from the Tiananmen Square uprising was, of course, “Tank Man” facing down a column of Type 62 tanks.

"Tank Man" model and reference image, by Jeff Widener of the Associated Press, Chang'an Avenue, June 5, 1989.

Archival footage of Tank Man, Chang'an Avenue, June 5, 1989.

Screenshot visualizations of “Tank Man,” by 4Gentlemen, augmented reality public art, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, 2011.

Visible only through the viewfinder of a smart phone, both virtual objects have been placed in Beijing at the precise GPS coordinates where the original incidents took place.

The "Goddess of Democracy," by 4 Gentlemen, augmented reality public art, Al Tahrir Square, Cairo, 2011.

The “Goddess of Democracy” has also been placed at Al Tahrir Square in Cairo, and elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East during the Arab Spring last year.

DéchARge de Rebut Toxique

Screenshots of “DéchARge de Rebut Toxique,” by John Craig Freeman, augmented reality public art, Paris, 2001.

With locations at the Eiffel Tower, the Musée du Louvre, and the Centre Pompidou, “DéchARge de Rebut Toxique” consists of sprawling radio-toxic waste dumps at a time when the world is reconsidering its policies on nuclear energy after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. “DéchARge de Rebut Toxique” revisits the topic of the invisibility of radioactive waste, which I explored and created an image for in “Operation Greenrun II.”

Peace Doors

Consistent with my interest in borders and margins, both real and imagined, “Peace Doors” offers a virtual passage through the world’s sociopolitical barrier.

The Military Demarcation Line (MDL), sometimes referred to as the Armistice Line, is the land border or demarcation line between North Korea and South Korea. On either side of the line is the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The MDL and DMZ were established by the Armistice at the end of Korean War in 1953.

Screenshot of “Peace Door DMZ,” by John Craig Freeman, augmented reality public art, the Bridge of No Return, Korea, 2010.

Modeled after traditional Korean architecture, versions of this Peace Door are placed along the DMZ including on the “Bridge of No Return.”

This bridge was used for prisoner exchanges at the end of the war. The name originates from the claim that many war prisoners captured by the United States did not wish to return home. The prisoners were brought to the bridge and given the choice to remain in the country of their captivity or cross over to the other country. But if they chose to cross the bridge, they would never be allowed to return.

There are nine Peace Doors located at crossing points along the Peace Line in West Belfast. This version of the Peace Doors project addresses the ongoing conflict between the Catholic and Protestant communities there.

Screenshot of “Peace Door West Belfast,” by John Craig Freeman, augmented reality public art at the Peace Line, West Belfast, 2010.

The Peace Line is constructed of walls, fences, industrial complexes and even a shopping mall, designed to separate the Protestant Shankill neighborhood from the Catholic Falls Road neighborhood. The first Peace Line barriers were built in 1969, following the outbreak of the “The Troubles.“ They were built as temporary structures because they were indeed meant to be temporary, lasting only six months, but due to their effective nature they have become more permanent, wider and longer and the passage gates are still locked down at night and on the weekends.

Water wARs

“Water wARs,” is a pavilion for undocumented artists/squatters and water war refugees, which anticipates the flood of environmental refugees into the developed world caused by environmental degradation, global warming and the privatization of the world’s drinking water supply by multinational corporations like Bechtel.

"Water wARs: Piazza San Marco," by John Craig Freeman, augmented reality public art, Venice Italy, 2011.

This version of “Water wARs” was exhibited as part of the “ManifestAR Venice Biennial 2011 AR Intervention,” in the Piazza San Marco, Venice’s main public square, during the 54th Venice Biennial, International Art Exhibition, ILLUMInations in Venice.

In Timaeus, Plato writes about Solon and his voyage to the Nile River delta, where he learned from Egyptian priests and the keepers of ancient records about Greece’s defeat of the Atlantans, a story that had been forgotten by the Greeks themselves. Solon returned to Greece to tell the story of its own history. Solon was a practitioner of the Greek institution of the theoria. Theoria, or θεωρία in Greek, is the root of both the word theory and of tourism. Interestingly, the word translates to English as “to consider, speculate, or look at.” The theoria was a group of trustworthy people or an individual, theoros (θεωρός), literally “spectator,” who would be dispatched to distant lands by the community, in search of the truth. Solon lived in a time, not unlike ours, that was awash in rumor and myth, stories of gods and sea monsters. The theoria’s job was to go to these faraway places, investigate, and report back to the community in… you guessed it …the public square.

When considered in this context, both “Imaging Place” and my work in augmented reality, can be regarded a prototype of a new, theory-based virtual tourism, or to use a term that the art world might find less vernacular and distasteful, secular virtual pilgrimage.


Collaboration is not only important to my creative practice, it is important to the prospects for the invention of new artistic forms in the electrate age, particularly those that aspire to function globally. ManifestAR, for instance, is both collective and, at times collaborative. In many cases we come together as a group to produce work for a specific project or venue. The work is often produced independently, creating an eclectic mix of different projects. In the aggregate, collective projects become a kind of augmented reality mash up.

Other times, I will work, not just collectively, but in direct collaboration with other artists. In many cases, particularly those which deal that culturally sensitive material, I prefer a collaborative approach. I like to do interesting things with interesting people.

However, this document does not list projects, for which, I did not play the lead, or at the least, a central role in the conceptual development and the technical production.

My work on “Virta-Flaneurazine” is an equal partnership with Will Pappenheimer.

"Virta-Flaneurazine," by John Craig Freeman and Will Pappenheimer, augmented reality and virtual art, 2011.

Virta-Rat, the clinical trial’s resident test subject, played a significant role in the fabled transition from virtual reality to augmented reality. Virta-Rat was first spotted on users cell phones shortly after a powerful new black market version of Virta-Flaneurazine surfaced in the hutongs of central China in the weeks following the Xi’an clinical trials. Known by its street name “Blue Dragon,” the drugs unregulated illicit use is thought to be one of the earliest recorded examples of network barrier breach, a troubling phenomenon which is all to common place in 2012.

I work for several years on the “Imaging Fox Point/Cidade Velha” project in collaboration with my colleague Claire Andrade-Watkins as a follow-up to her internationally acclaimed documentary film “Some Kind of Funny Porto Rican?: A Cape Verdean American Story.”

Screenshot from “Imaging Fox Point/Cidade Velha, ” by Claire Andrade-Watkins and John Craig Freeman, place-based virtual reality installation, 2010.

“Mapping Ararat: An Imaginary Jewish Homelands Project” is a collaboration between myself, Melissa Shiff and Louis Kaplan. The project utilizes digital technologies in order to create a virtual Jewish homeland on Grand Island, New York.

The “Ararat Cornerstone Monument” as viewed through a smart phone mobile device, 2012.

The work of 4Gentlemen is, of course, collaborative with participants remaining anonymous for protection of free self-expression.

During the Qin Dynasty, Emperor Qinshihuang began building the Great Wall of China to keep northern nomads out. In the Internet age, China has invented a great firewall, known as Golden Shield, to block free thinking, to censor messages and images which criticize government policies and draw attention to violations of human rights, and to keep this activity from circulating in the blogosphere. While the ancient Great Wall of China is regarded as a wonder of human civilizations, the great firewall in cyberspace becomes the most sophisticated, extensive and notorious project preventing the world’s largest population from expressing themselves with contemporary technologies. How does this invisible wall impact the lives of people within China and beyond in the information era?

The "Great Firewall of China," by 4 Gentlemen, augmented reality public art, China, 2011.

The “Great Firewall of China” seeks to make Internet repression visible by setting the Great Wall ablaze.

“Metro-NeXt” was produced in collaboration with Swiss artist Lalie S. Pascual and French artist Caroline Bernard.

“Metro-NeXt,” by John Craig Freeman, Lalie S. Pascual and Caroline Bernard, augmented reality public art, “La Re.Play,” Los Angeles, 2012.

With locations in Boston, Lausanne, Philadelphia, Victoria, Paris, Thonon and Los Angeles, “Metro-NeXt” is a follow up to German artist Martin Kippenberger’s “Metro-Net” project. Before his untimely death in 1997 at age 43, Kippenberger imagined a global underground metro system and started to construct entrances to it in different cities around the world. These faux subway entrances lead nowhere physically, but conceptually link the major cities and people of the world. Rather than the entrance leading to nowhere, “Metro-NeXt” leads to a virtual dimension, an augmented and mixed reality portal, linking cities together.

“Butterfly Lovers,” “Southeast Flies the Peacock” and “Hermit & Scholar” was produced in collaboration with the New York-based, Chinese couple and art collective, Lily & Honglei. The painted figures in traditional costumes are derived from popular Chinese folktales.

“Butterfly Lovers,” by Lily & Honglei with John Craig Freeman, augmented reality public art, Ruby Red Steps, Times Square, New York City.

Butterfly Lovers is regarded as the equivalent of Romeo and Juliet. This project addresses issues of cultural displacement and Diaspora, and visualizes the restless, roaming cultural spirit of the East hidden in western metropolis.

Although being surrounded by urban crowds and dazzling material world, immigrants often live in isolation and struggle to survive. What is the real relationship between cultural spirit and material reality? This is the question raised by Butterfly Lovers.

Screenshots of “Southeast Flies the Peacock,” by Lily & Honglei with John Craig Freeman, augmented reality public art, “La Re.Play,” Chinatown, Los Angeles, 2012.

The anonymous ballad “Southeast Fly the Peacocks,” also titled “Chiao Chung-ching’s Wife,” is one of the most remarkable poems in the Chinese language. It is the longest narrative poem prior to the Tun-huang ballads of the Tang Dynasty. It is unique among the early yue-fu poems in its elaborate narration, composed with great literary skill. The domestic tragedy it relates has moved readers through the ages and it of great interest from the viewpoints of literary history, social history, and social psychology.

“Hermit & Scholar,” by Lily & Honglei with John Craig Freeman, augmented reality public art, “La Re.Play,” Chinatown, Los Angeles, 2012.

During the Chou Dynasty when Lao-tze was the Keeper of the Archives there were signs that the sovereign was losing control of the vassals, and the dynasty appeared to be crumbling. In despair of not being able to help, Lao-tze left his official post, renounced all worldly matters and went to live as a recluse. In “Hermit & Scholar” the mad monk beats his drum in protest in the public square.

Art Practice as Intervention

Intervention is an important aspect of my creative practice. Project like “We Are in MoMA” and the “ManifestAR Venice Biennial 2011 AR Intervention” were done without the permission. This work is meant to challenge the authority of cultural institutions, curators and art marketeers over who should decide what art is important and which art gets into the canon. Further, projects like “Goddess of Democracy” and “Tank Man,” are meant to challenge the institutions of the nation state and ask the questions, who owns virtual space; who owns physical space in the networked era; and who will assert dominion over our virtual existence?

I fully understand the need for peer review in the process of building a dossier that can succeed in making a case for promotion to Full Professor. I am not making the claim that the interventionist work I do stands up to peer review scrutiny. I do however, back my claims that I am making a substantive and original contribution to the field of art by providing a verbose record of well-documented peer reviewed achievements, along side these interventions. These achievements are detailed in a more-or-less reverse chronological order in the Scholarly/Creative/Professional Engagement section of this dossier and I have compiled a selection of corroborating documents in the Other Relevant Material section, which have all been published in one form or another.


[1] Guy Debord, “Theory of the Dérive,” Les Lèvres Nues 9 (1956); reprinted Internationale Situationniste 2, trans. Ken Knabb (1958).

[2] Gregory L. Ulmer, Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy (Harlow, England: Longman, 2002).

[3] Gregory L. Ulmer, Applied Grammatology: Post(e)-Pedagogy from Jacques Derrida to Joseph Beuys (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984).

[4] Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press 1967; corrected edition 1998).

[5] David Weinberger, Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder, (New York: Times Books, 2007).

[6] Plato, Timaeus, trans. Benjamin Jowett (Gloucestershire, England: Echo Library, 2006).

[7] Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (New York: Gingko Press, 1967; reprint, San Francisco, 1996 and 2005).

[8] Fredric Jameson, “Cognitive Mapping,” in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, ed. C. Nelson and L. Grossberg, 347-60 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1990).

[9] Marc Prensky, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants,” On the Horizon 9, no. 5 (2001): 1–6.

[10] Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, (Cambridge MA: Zone/MIT Press, New edition, 1995). Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith.

[11] Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation: The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism, trans. Sheila Faria Glaser (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1995).

[12] Gregory L. Ulmer, Electronic Monuments, (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2005).

[13] Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (Verso: Brooklyn, NY, 2006).

[14] Bernard Stiegler, The Decadence of Industrial Democracies: Disbelief and Discredit, (Polity Press: Cambridge, 2011).

(3) Service

I always try to make myself of use around the department, the college and in the field. I have a deep commitment to participating in change, upholding standards, and serving my students and colleagues. My service contributions for the review period from 2007 to the present are listed in the Service Contribution section of this dossier.

Service to the College

Since receiving tenure, my most important contribution to the College was serving as Chair of Faculty Assembly from September 2007 to May 2009. In addition to setting the agenda, organizing and directing the monthly Faculty Assembly meetings, my responsibilities included Chairing Faculty Council and the Handbook Committee as well as serving as Ex-officio of all other All College Committees. I also served as Faculty Representative to the Board of Trustees from September 2010 to December 2011. In 2009, I was elected by Faculty Assembly to serve on the Ad-hoc Committee on Race as it Pertains to Tenure. The committee was charged with implementing the recommendation from the External Panel which was appointed by the President in 2009 to review institutional policies on race as it pertains to tenure. Finally, I served on the Presidential Search Committee responsible for hiring President Pelton, January 2009 to September 2010. In 2010 I received the Faculty Assembly, Faculty Service Award.

Service to the Department

Regarding service to the Department of Visual and Media Arts, I served as Chair of the Curriculum, Program Review, and Assessment Committees. I served as a member of the MFA, and the Development, Promotion and Tenure Committee. Additionally, I am deeply involved in New Media, Computer Animation and Gaming curriculum development.

Service to the Student Body

My service to the Student Body includes advising the SweetTooth Animation Student Group. SweetTooth Animation is Emerson College’s student-led animation organization dedicated to creating quality short films in a professional, production team-based environment in order to spread knowledge and appreciation of the art of animation and its techniques, and encourage members to express their creativity through this medium. I also act as Student Exhibition Advisor.

Service to the Field

My service to the field includes serving on the Board of Directors, 119 Gallery in Lowell Massachusetts. 119 Gallery promotes contemporary and new media art, innovative ideas and cutting-edge techniques with a rich and diverse program of exhibitions, performances and community-based arts services; and welcomes people of all ages, backgrounds and means to explore and experience new, innovative art.

Also, I currently serve on the Editorial Board of Public Art Dialogue. Public Art Dialogue, the journal, serves as a forum for critical discourse and commentary about the practice of public art defined as broadly as possible to include: memorials, object art, murals, urban and landscape design projects, social interventions, performance art, and web-based work. Public Art Dialogue is a scholarly journal, welcoming of new and experimental modes of inquiry and production. Most issues are theme-based, and each features both peer-reviewed articles and artists’ projects. The journal is overseen by co-editors assisted by an international editorial board, which reflects the diversity and cross-disciplinarity of the public art field. Routledge publishes the journal twice a year in print and electronic formats in English language.

(4) Long-term Usefulness to the College

New Media is constantly and rapidly evolving. One of the distinguishing characteristics of this field is that it is not a fixed discipline; it is in a perpetual state of change. As I hope that this dossier demonstrates, I actively pursue these changes in my teaching, service, and my research and creative work. Additionally, my background in more traditional forms of visual arts and academics assures that my activities will maintain a solid grounding in established standards. It is for these reasons that I am confident that I will continue to be useful to Emerson College for the long-term.

A few areas related to new media in particular, which need to be developed, and for which I hope to bring my expertise and leadership in the future include computer programing, as well as further development in computer gaming.

The enormous influence that computer gaming has had on culture over the last decade or so, presents special challenges to pedagogy in higher education. If gaming technologies and practices are allowed to enter academic curriculum and discourse spontaneously on the entertainment industries terms, without regard to theoretical concerns or critical analysis, then the institutions run the risk of the entertainment industry driving curriculum development. This has already occurred at many colleges and universities around the country and beyond. The result is often a move away from intellectual rigor and towards vocational training. Regardless, I am convinced that Emerson should develop curriculum in these areas in the next five years in order to be proactive and I hope that I can provide leadership in this area as well.

In regards to the long-term usefulness of my research, publication and creative professional work, my long-term goals include the following:

  • To continue to develop the technologies, the methodology, and the content for truly immersive and navigable narrative, based in real places. New technologies, whether they are computer hardware and software, or image capture equipment such as video and still camera equipment are constantly emerging. My work in virtual and augmented reality will continue to act as a test bed to identify the technologies, which are best suited to the invention of new artistic practices and I will continue to design custom technologies when none exist. Although I have invested over tow decades of my creative practice, I feel that I have barely scratched the surface in both form and theory.
  • To create and archive an ongoing body of new work from around the world. Unlike many modernist cultural forms, this work is designed with the specific intention that it will never be completed. New projects are simply added to the lager global interface. My work is in a constant state of becoming.
  • To facilitate the necessary international, inter-institutional, interdisciplinary collaboration. I will continue to develop the technology and the infrastructure for conducting collaborative activities over distances, between individuals and institutions, and across disciplines.
  • To showcase the work in both an ongoing public exhibition and to stream it to the Internet.
  • To build curriculum around these pursuits. In an attempt to engage students in these possibilities and to develop a globalized, twenty-first century approach to pedagogy.


In conclusion, the ten years I have spent at Emerson College have been amongst the most productive in my career. My teaching skills have expanded enormously, I continue to accumulate valuable achievements with my work and I feel that my contributions are valued. The conditions at Emerson have allowed me to strike a productive balance between my teaching, service, and research publication and creative professional work, each of which inform and support the other. I immensely enjoy working with the Emerson College administration, faculty, students and staff. I feel both challenged and supported. I hope that my performance measures up to your expectations.

Return to John Craig Freeman: Dossier 2012


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