Shades of Absence (2011)

In these "pavilions of absence," viewable as an augmented reality overlay over the live camera of mobile devices, images of contemporary artists whose works have been censored are reduced to gold silhouettes and placed in the midst of terms of transgression. Each erased silhouette stands for countless unknown or lesser known artists who face censorship or persecution with no public support. The artworks are placed at specific sites via geolocative augmented reality as virtual memorials to artists who have suffered under censorship. Touching the artwork in the display provides a link to a website with cases of censorship - including but not limited to the artists whose silhouettes are part of the work.

Full Description

"Shades of Absence" uses the characteristics of geoloctive augmented reality (AR) to penetrate walls and invade protected spaces, and manifest its presence at a site that gives the work added meaning. Viewers can touch the work on the display of their own smartphones to see information on these and other censored artists.

"Shades of Absence" premiered in an intervention into the 2011 Venice Biennale with three works: "Public Voids" (on public art, in Piazza San Marco - including some artists censored in the Venice Biennale itself), "Inside Outside" (on artists threatened with physical violence or arrest, in the Venice Giardini), and "Schlingensief Gilded" (in the German Pavilion, as part of the memorial exhibit to Christian Schlingensief). Versions of these works have been geolocated at other sites as well, for instance under the Brooklyn Bridge as part of the DUMBO arts festival.

A fourth work, "Governing Bodies," (on artists censored due to pressure from high US government officials), was created for the Corcoran Gallery of Art / College of Art and Design in Washington DC. This work is a memorial for (but not limited to) Robert Mapplethorpe and Paul Cadmus, censored in the Corcoran Gallery of Art itself, and the NEA 4. It is geolocated in the Corcoran Gallery, the U.S. Capitol Building and the offices of the National Endowment for the Arts in the Old Post Office Pavilion. A copy of this work is also geolocated in the New Museum, New York as an intervention in homage to the NEA 4 as part of its 2013 exhibit “NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star.”

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Artist Statement

Censorship tries to condemn artists and their artworks to absence and invisibility. In cases that attract widespread public notice, artists can actually gain prominence when their works are censored. In the majority of cases however both the artists and their work disappear soundlessly from the public discourse, with artists fearing negative consequences if they challenge the censors. This artwork references both well known and lesser known artists - as silhouettes, so the focus is not on the individual but on the erasure of their works.

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