Los Angeles welcomes new historical monuments on Snapchat

Ada Pinkston created the virtual artwork ‘The Open Hand is Blessed’ as part of an artistic partnership between LCAMA and Snap Inc. — ETX Studio
Ada Pinkston created the virtual artwork ‘The Open Hand is Blessed’ as part of an artistic partnership between LCAMA and Snap Inc. — ETX Studio

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LOS ANGELES, Apr 17 — Los Angeles is welcoming some new monuments, but residents and visitors will only be able to see them on Snapchat. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has recently joined forces with the social network to create five augmented reality sculptures celebrating the cultural heritage of the American city. Grab your smartphones!

According to the City of Los Angeles, LA is home to over 1,200 historic-cultural monuments. Thanks to Snapchat and the LACMA, it now has five more, created using augmented reality technology. These virtual sculptures are the fruit of “Monumental Perspectives,” a collaborative, multi-year project between the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Snap Inc. The aim is to shine a spotlight on the history and heritage of certain Los Angeles communities, often underrepresented in the public space. 

“The question we were asking is ‘what other histories need monumentalizing, and could we use Snap’s technology?’,” said LACMA CEO Michael Govan. “Monumental Perspectives is a project between LACMA and Snapchat that examines the question of monuments today, and together we’re commissioning a group of diverse artists to use Snap’s augmented reality technology to place art, monuments in space that reconsider really what monuments are, what they represent, what stories they tell.”

The augmented reality artworks created by such artists as Mercedes Dorame, I.R. Bach and Ada Pinkston take various and sometimes surprising forms. A case in point is “¡Vendedores, Presente!” by Ruban Ochoa, which draws inspiration from the artist’s own family history to pay homage to the essential role of street vendors in LA’s culture and economy. The piece comprises a collection of colorful food virtual trucks that the city’s residents can discover on Snapchat at MacArthur Park. 

Virtual monuments that are visible anywhere the world

Ada Pinkston chose to focus on a historical figure who deserves to be better known in the US: Biddy Mason. The former slave, born in 1818, notably became a nurse, midwife, philanthropist and founder of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles. Ada Pinkston celebrates her many achievements in an artwork titled “The Open Hand is Blessed.” 

While the digital artworks in “Monumental Perspectives” were developed to be experienced in emblematic Los Angeles locations, they are also available to Snapchat users anywhere in the world regardless of their location. More artists will be invited to create their own virtual monuments in the coming months. 

“Like these immersive commemorations, we’re excited to see more artists using innovative means-beyond bronze and stone-to memorialize historical figures, ideas, and movements, and to recontextualize existing monuments that teach too little of our collective history in public spaces,” said Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which is supporting the project. — ETX Studio

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