ART & ACTIVISM Cahill + Coordinates project
Coordinates is a new, ongoing, collaborative public AR art exhibition that exists on 4th Wall and invites the viewer to be physically present at specific locations. The project was created out of the desire to use technology as a subversive form of resistance, aims to inspire thoughtful dialogue and expand our understanding of public art.
Nancy Baker Cahill’s project Coordinates is tech-driven, site-specific and thought-provoking: an ongoing AR tour that breaks walls by taking us outside brick and mortar galleries and museums to see activist art live. It’s about shattering the familiar: there is a tension between the artwork’s aesthetic and the actual meaning of the place it is at, that may be contested. These are art installations with a political edge, an urge to ‘roar’ about today’s most pressing issues- environment, migration(s), identities.
With Coordinates about to be launched in Berlin and other cities in Europe, let’s meet Nancy, find out more about her and her work and what makes this project so special.
Which of these elements (space, air, fire, water, earth) would you choose in relation to your practice and/or your self, and why?
Space and fire.
Space because I am interested in the ineffable, the un-locatable, the uncontained.
Fire because of the internal creative combustion that I feel internally that fuels everything I do.
Is there a particular artwork/person/place/situation that inspired/motivated you to launch Coordinates?
I have long been committed to collaboration and subversive acts of resistance, but this moment in time almost demanded it. Between the polarized moment we are in culturally, the accelerated effects of climate change, reproductive rights being stripped, human rights violations (at the border, in the immigrant detention camps, in the prison industrial complex, etc) which go unreported and unseen, and of course the list goes on– the timing seemed urgent.
If I could point to a single person who inspired it, it would be my dear friend, artist Tanya Aguiñiga. Early on she placed one of my AR dimensional drawings on the American side of the border wall–Hollow Point 101–and pulled it into Mexico, underscoring that art is, and should always be, borderless.
Her use of 4thWall was conceptual and political, and as profound as she is. I immediately wanted to create similarly radical site-specific experience
Tell us about the importance of ‘site’ [location/geography] in relation to Coordinates?
The artist’s chosen site is what activates the idea, or “thought space,” that the artwork and site, in combination, then occupy. It is the place where the work might have the most resonance, outside the sterile walls of a gallery or museum.
Your work gravitates around creative inclusiveness, which Coordinates enhances through AR. Tell us more about this device and why you have chosen it now?
Creative inclusivity and access to art/collaboration is what is most exhilarating about the project.
I’ve been astonished by other artists’ rigor and thoughtfulness when choosing their sites.
The same is true of the dimensional artworks. There is no limit to impact and imagination when a diverse group of people are invited to participate.
How do you define the best ‘political’/activist art concerning the Coordinates project?
The best political art to me is the least didactic, yet complex, powerful and thought provoking. I’d quote one of my favorite authors Maggie Nelson here who says,
True moral complexity is rarely found in simple reversals. More often it is found by wading into the swamp, getting intimate with discomfort, and developing an appetite for nuance.
Every Coordinates artist we’ve worked with so far has passed this litmus, whether it is Beatriz Cortez placing “T’zolkin” over the Rio Grande in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico as a memorial to Claudia Gomez Gonzales, or Andrea Chung’s artwork about invasive species as a metaphor for colonization over the LA River in the Defining Line exhibition. Any one of our participating artists accomplishes this in her/their own way.
Is there a book or author you are reading or in general that stimulates you?
I read all the time so it’s hard to pin one down, but I’ve just started Defacement, which is great so far, Automating Inequality, and Unfathomable City (about New Orleans). The book, Only Revolutions, has inspired my next personal body of work in VR and on canvas.
Please tell us what you are currently working on and what you are looking forward to this year in terms of exhibitions?
I’m working on a curated, city-wide AR public art exhibition in New Orleans that I initiated called Battlegrounds, which invites local artists to place artworks at contested sites, or “battlegrounds,” however they interpret the term.
Coordinates is a new, ongoing, collaborative public AR art exhibition that exists on 4th Wall and invites the viewer to be physically present at specific locations. This project was created out of the desire to use technology as a subversive form of resistance, aims to inspire thoughtful dialogue and expand our understanding of public art. Invited collaborating artists choose their work of art to be translated into AR, where they would like it placed for its conceptual or historical significance, and/ or its relationship to the artwork itself. Each artist is credited as their image appears onscreen. Additional artists and sites will be added regularly, so make sure to check the News section of the app or the Coordinates page map for updates. Learn how to use the feature here.
And about Nancy Baker Cahill here!
Header Photo: Tewa Barnosa, “Hayat / Life”, 2019, Staatsbibliothek Potsdamerstraße, Berlin
Author: Alexandra Etienne