#656: Racial Justice: Using AR to Reclaim History with Site-Specific Context

glenn-contaveOur stores of the past shape our future. There is a growing movement to use augmented reality technologies to reclaim suppressed histories by creating site-specific AR art installations that challenge institutionally-backed narratives. Glenn Cantave’s Movers and Shakers has created an AR experience that recontextualizes Christopher Columbus’ human rights abuses through creating iconic imagery that associates the traditional American colonial symbols with slavery, violence, and genocide. Cantave is leading a grassroots effort to remove the Christopher Columbus Statue in the middle of Manhattan, and has plans to expand their site-specific AR piece into a city-wide, holographic museum that regains control over the overarching narrative of Black history.

Movers and Shakers will also soon be releasing an augmented reality statue memorializing Colin Kaepernick that can be triggered by the map on a subway car. Micah Miller of Art 404 Contributed the Colin Kaepernick Statue to the cause, & Cantave had the idea for using the subway map as the image target.

This AR app will be a part of their effort to raise money and awareness for a separate ballot initiative that would assign a cultural heritage representative within the New York City government to provide a voice that could advocate for more representation in the histories that are being taught in schools. This ballot initiative would also implement a participatory budgeting process using Stable Coin blockchain currency, which could be a pilot implementation that catalyzes change around the country towards using blockchain technologies for a more participatory democracy.

Indigenous Futurist Jason Edward Lewis told me that the mythology of America is that we think that we can escape our past. Cantave responded to this myth by saying that Black Americans can’t escape the past, and they’re still living with the consequences of the past with all of the various human rights abuses and racial inequality that Black Americans are facing — which catalyzed the #BlackLivesMatter movement as well as NFL protests.

There are unconscious shadow elements to the history that America tells itself, and it’s possible that this inability to honestly reckon with the past is in part of what’s leading to today’s current polarization in the US. Cantave is advocating for speaking the truth, and to use the engagement and contextual immersion of AR to start to challenge mainstream symbols of colonial power. Statues are cultural symbols that represent a collective sentiment, and Cantave feels that it’s time to fully acknowledge the truth of the harm done and injustices committed by making a collective decision to remove the Christopher Columbus statue in Manhattan. I spoke with Cantave at the VRTO conference in Toronto, Canada on Sunday, June 18th, 2018.

Movers and Shakers is looking for funding and help to build these types of racial justice immersive experiences, and so get in touch if you’d like to help out.


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