augmented reality public art installation
William T. Ayton & Diana Ayton-Shenker
NYC Fall 2019
New Babel, an Augmented Reality (AR) public art installation by William T. Ayton, transforms the heart of NYC into an immersive art environment. Imagine a towering fusion of original art, emerging technology, and digital media, soaring nearly 1000’ high, yet held in the palm of your hand. This pilot AR installation piece is envisioned as a tribute to The New School’s role in catalyzing global change, and as an homage to New York City as a global center for towers of knowledge, creative freedom, enterprise, and in-gathering. Activated in and around Union Square Park in NYC, its AR elements offer new ways to view themes of universal human rights, fundamental freedoms, collaborative innovation, creative expression, and intellectual inquiry. Created by artist William T. Ayton, in collaboration with TNS Global Catalyst Senior Fellow, Diana Ayton-Shenker, New Babel was incubated in coordination with The New School’s XReality Center, produced by Global Momenta and other supporting partners.
Introduced as part of The New School’s Centennial “Festival of New”, New Babel will launch a global tour of AR public art installations spanning the next 3-5 years, bringing large-scale, interactive digital and massive installations across every continent, designed and contextualized to specific geographies and sites. Creating colossal, imaginary pieces that fuse illusion, mirage, & hidden visibilities aim to saturate the viewing field and engender inspiring & overwhelming imagery. The intention is to follow this NYC pilot with AR installations customized to diverse landscapes: the Arizona desert and borderlands, fragile and endangered ecosystems, indigenous and marginalized communities, and historic sites & landmarks around the world as centers of reconciliation, reparation, reclamation, and regeneration.
The centerpiece of the New Babel installation is an AR skyscraper-tall structure, rooted in the ground of Union Square Park, reaching up toward an emergent AR world, depicted as a texture-mapped, multi-colored, diaphanous sphere, as a revolving globe in the sky, hovering above New Babel. The globe’s surface is textured with Ayton’s original painting used on the book cover of A New Global Agenda by Diana Ayton-Shenker. Initial design prototype features a colossal New Babel Tower with six levels soaring approximately 60 stories high (627’); the central globe is 360’ in diameter, slightly exceeding the base of the tower, illuminating the sky above the interior of Square. The New Babel central tower will be surrounded by additional AR art framing the perimeter of Union Square Park with “Four Freedoms ReNewed,” a series of four AR billboards, and the “UDHR” wraparound banner of human rights. Freedoms ReNewed are large-scale, AR “billboard” panels flanking each side of the Square with an updated rendering of Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms: Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Expression, and Freedom of Thought. An AR ribbon will wrap around the Square, encircling the central structure with the Ayton UDHR series of 30 images illuminating the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (during its 70th Anniversary year). Additional elements to be incorporated, i.e. Tree(s) of Knowledge, further reflect core themes of TNS Centennial.
New Babel is designed to be viewable via hand-held devices (phones, tablets, etc.) and accessed via poster-based scan codes distributed throughout the square, or through a pre-downloaded app.
New Babel is a collaborative venture and brainchild of artist William T. Ayton and his wife & partner Diana Ayton-Shenker, Global Catalyst Senior Fellowship at The New School. The AR installation is developed and produced by Global Momenta, incubated in coordination with TNS’ XReality Center, with funding by private donors and sponsors, support by strategic and creative partners, and project team headed by TNS GPIA alum, Rodolfo Tsapralis.
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