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“What I’m trying to do with this piece, is asking people to consider, ‘What is liberty?’” – Nancy Baker Cahill
The Hirshhorn has partnered with Art Production Fund to support Liberty Bell, a new augmented-reality (AR) public art project by artist Nancy Baker Cahill, unveiled on the National Mall on July 4, 2020. In addition to Washington, the work is presented simultaneously in five other cities in the United States: Boston; Charleston, South Carolina; Philadelphia; Rockaway, New York; and Selma, Alabama. Available for viewing throughout the summer, the work was dubbed “a social distancing dream” by The New York Times.
In DC, Liberty Bell is geo-located over the reflecting pool between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. At this location, the work prompts viewers to consider challenges to our individual rights, while providing an opportunity for thoughtful reconciliation through a shared and democratized public art experience. As Liberty Bell sways above the pool, AR shadows are cast over the water. The image creates a literal and metaphorical reflective experience for viewers as they are invited to question the very concept of liberty.
How to Experience Liberty Bell
- Download the free 4th Wall app from the App Store or Google Play, using Wifi. The app works on iPhones 6s and above (iOS11 and up), any iPad with AR capability, and Androids with AR Core. Once downloaded, be sure to “Allow Access” to photos, microphone, camera and location. The 4th Wall app does not collect any user data.
- Be sure device sound is on.
- Position yourself at the edge of the reflecting pool, facing the Washington Monument, with the Lincoln Memorial behind you (view map). This site is wheelchair accessible.
The duration of the work is approximately 1 minute 30 seconds, and it is recommended that viewers experience the full animation with sound.
When viewing the work, please adhere to all social distancing guidelines as instructed by the CDC.
About Liberty Bell
Commissioned by Art Production Fund, in partnership with 7G Foundation and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, a project of the Fund for the City of New York, Liberty Bell is an animated, monumental and richly sonorous AR drawing in 360 degrees. The public artwork is geolocated at a series of sites and experienced on smartphones through Baker Cahill’s free 4th Wall app. This project, which is two years in the making, lives at the vibrant intersection of public art, social consciousness and tech.
In this polarized and tumultuous election year many concerns persist around the founding principles of American freedom, and democracy. Inequality, structural racism, injustice, and the ability to vote are chief among them. Inspired by the original cracked Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, the drawing hovers beyond viewers, swaying with the rich and layered sound of bells tolling. The Liberty Bell soundscape morphs from the rhythmic lulling of a tolling bell, into a harmonious and dissonant sequence of ringing as it becomes increasingly unpredictable and arrhythmic. Ranging from analog to synthetic, the sounds were compiled from a diverse array of historical moments and locations. The richly textured brushstrokes and bell sounds resemble loosely knitted threads that unravel and come together in an uncomfortable, but cohesive moment. They reflect the evolution and transformation of liberty over time into the complex reality we face today. Baker Cahill chose July 4, known as Independence Day, as a launch date to advocate for justice, civil rights and freedom in the U.S.
AR is impermanent, ephemeral, invisible to the naked eye, and leaves no environmental trace. It is accessible to a broad audience through the ubiquitous use of smartphones and tablets. Community programming will be organized online and in-person when possible. Programming will include topical conversations by cultural leaders and community members from all six cities as they relate to current events. Providing a platform for conversation and access to the artwork is a crucial component of this project.