School Shootings eMorial

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John Craig Freeman with Greg Ulmer
In association with Manifest.AR
Corcoran Gallery of Art
August 14 – September , 2013

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Built for smart phone mobile devices and network enabled tablets, School Shooting eMorial creates a lasting monument to victims of school shootings. Simply download and launch a mobile augmented reality browser and aim the devices’ camera at the open space, just west of the U.S. Capital Building on the National Mall in Washington D.C. The browser uses geolocation software to superimpose 3D virtual objects at precise GPS coordinates, integrating the memorial into the physical location as if it existed in the real world.

Instructions:

  • To view the work on location on the National Mall in Washington D.C. just west of the U.S. Capital Building, using any late model iPad, iPhone or Android, download the free Layar Augmented Reality Browser (http://layar.com) and scan this code
  • .

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After the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, you may remember the commentary that was published in the New Yorker, about the heartbreaking experience of the police carrying the bodies out of the classrooms while the cellphones in the victim’s pockets and backpacks kept ringing.

School Shootings eMorial consists of an of augmented reality scene including a virtual replica of the Sandy Hook School sign, twenty backpacks representing each of the students and six apples representing each of the teachers and staff who lost their life in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut on December 14, 2012. When people approach the backpacks cellphone ringing sounds are triggered.

This exhibition focuses on 6 projects from the larger Manifest.AR collective. Gallery 31 is the hub for the exhibition, but the show itself moves beyond the physical constraints of the gallery, into the monumental space of Washington DC, and in some cases beyond the authorial intentions of the artists – as the audience is encouraged to participate.

We hope this exhibition – with all of its idiosyncratic pitfalls and egalitarian possibilities – represents a progressive alternative to the status quo.

Here is a link to the Installation photo stream and one for the Opening Reception.

Press: Reality Bytes, Lea Winerman, Read Washington Post Express.

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Whereas the public square, particularly the National Mall, was once the quintessential place to air grievances, display solidarity, express difference, celebrate similarity, remember, mourn, and reinforce shared values of right and wrong, it is no longer the only anchor for interactions in the public realm. Public discourse has been relocated to a novel space; a virtual space that encourages exploration of mobile location based media in public. Moreover, public space is now truly open, as artworks can be placed anywhere in the world, without prior permission from government or private authorities —with profound implications for art in the public sphere and the discourse that surrounds it. 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 worldwide digital network. In his book Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy, Greg 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. Electracy describes the kind of literacy or skill and facility necessary to exploit the full communicative potential of new electronic media such as mobile media and the internet. With the emergence of augmented reality technology on widely used mobile devices, the distributed placelessness of Internet public, discourse and identity formation comes crashing back down to place.

“About public memory:  journalism did or does its part by registering initial information, comment, reaction, etc.  There needs to be a further public response of collective intelligence.  In our frame (apparatus), literacy set up the  first frame (Aristotle’s categories amount to the 5 Ws of Journalism).  Electracy is responsible for this further dimension.” Greg Ulmer.

Ubiquitous imaging–ubimage–signifies within a digitally supported logic in the apparatus of electracy. There is a backpack (for example), an object ubiquitous as a commodity, circulating for its use and exchange value, becoming signifier. Follow the trace (inference path): Cell phones were heard ringing in the backpacks of students murdered at Virginia Tech (04/16/2007). The backpacks of the children slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT (12/14/2012) were designed for the imaginations of six-year-olds, perhaps already beyond the whimsy of Dora the Explorer and her backpack friend. Backpacks were the disguise of choice by the Chechen brothers for the IEDs targeting the Boston Marathon finish line, detonated by a connection between a cell phone and a toy car (04/15/2013). Chechen separatists took hostage 1100 people (777 children) at a school in Beslan, Russian Federation (09/01/2004). Of the 334 killed in the three-day siege, 186 were children. There is a certain inference trace passing through these events, bringing into appearance an opposition, a fundamental violence, archetypal, an irreducible polarity throwing apart two apparati–Oral and Alphabetic, Religion and Science. The emblem is made explicit in the name of a group responsible for burning down a school in Nigeria, murdering 29 students and a teacher (07/06/2013): Boko Haram — “Western Education Is Sacrilege.” The classroom as Frontier. Recall the Khmer Rouge, the genocide of the killing fields of Cambodia (1975-1978, 1.7 million dead), in which anyone suspected of being educated was murdered (the shibboleth was eyeglasses). Is there a pattern gathering this path into a pathology? Is the Reign of Terror native to modernity (France 09/05/1793 – 07/28/1794): the guillotine (16,594 executions)? An eMorial translates one-at-a-time disasters into a public sacrifice on behalf of a national value. In the United States from 1960 to 2013, 1.3 million Americans have died from gun violence. These dead are commemorated today, martyrs to the Second Amendment to the Constitution, honored as members of a Minute Man Militia (three Americans killed each and every hour, each and every day). A society is measured by what it values.

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