November 22, 2023

New York’s New Augmented Reality Monuments Celebrate Black Culture

As part of the Signature Series, the Kinfolk Foundation is placing four new Augmented Reality (AR) monuments throughout New York to celebrate Black culture and identity throughout the city.

AR technology creates interactive, immersive, experimental experiences where our real, physical world is digitally augmented.

The Kinfolk Foundation

Kinfolk Foundation is a non-profit digital and educational platform that uses art and emerging technologies such as AR to re-center the stories and lives of African-American figures.

This aims to highlight the contributions and success of communities of color, uprooting systems and reimagining public spaces through technology, art, and storytelling.

The platform, co-founded by Idris Brewster, also creates self-guided and classroom-ready historical curriculums through interactive digital media experiences.

Those experiences, events, and community partnerships bring attention to underrepresented historical contexts and grow awareness of inequity and injustice.

Kinfolk has now partnered with artists Derrick Adams, Hank Willis Thomas, Pamela Council, and Tourmaline, becoming the organization’s first set of artist commissions: The Signature Series.

The Signature Series – AR Monuments

Through the four AR monuments in The Signature Series, each artist has paid tribute to Black culture in their own way.

Adams pays tribute to Green Book – a guidebook for African-American road trippers in New York  – creators Alma and Victor Hugo Green.

Thomas created a 50-foot-tall afro pick, a digitized version of his large-scale All Power to the People sculpture.

Council digitized Foundations for Black Joy, A Fountain for Survivors, a pandemic-era sculpture made of 40,000 acrylic nails, and installed it in Times Square.

“With Kinfolk, I learned about the structure and edges of AR,” said Council, according to The New Yorker.

“We were both interested in exploring the archival potential of the medium, and together, we considered recreating the original artwork. Through our iterative process, we found the medium could create a new work that presented more of the conceptual foundation of the larger fountain project.”

Lastly, Tourmaline’s Alien Superstar resurfaces the story of Mary Jones – one of the earliest recorded American trans women at the site of the SoHo brothel where she lived and worked in the early 19th century.

“The AR creation of Mary Jones serves not merely as a homage to a figure I’ve long admired, but as a time-bending portal investing the viewer into the transformative energy of our ancestors who are still here,” Tourmaline told The New Yorker.

Starting today, users can download the Kinfolk app to discover each commission.

Feature Image Credit: Tourmaline: ‘Alien Superstar’

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.