notes from Workshop #32

“This Workshop was one of the most instructive, productive, questioning, and complex of the Lab’s efforts so far.”  

                                                         -Ron Mallis, Founder, Boston APP/Lab


Boston APP/Lab is hoping to use the interest, ideas, and reactions to Workshop #32 as the catalyst for a follow up workshop in 2017.  E-mail to participate

Questions & Themes:

  • What new opportunities does AR open up for civic participation?

  • How can AR “democratize” art?


Augmented Reality: an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information of an image of something being viewed through a device...


Reading this, several questions come to mind:

  • Whose reality?

  • What is the “something?”

  • Information about what?

  • And then what happens?


To lead us through this remix, prod us to think more expansively about the uses to which augmented reality can be put into place, and about the users ( actual and potential ) we were honored to have the participation of George Fifield, Director, Boston Cyberarts, and, from Emerson’s Engagement Lab, Eric Gordon, Founding Director, and Christina Wilson, Programs Manager, facilitate presentations.


Each discussed their AR-based projects – whether focused on civic participation (Participatory Pokémon Go) or civic art ("The Augmented Landscape") or both -- which they are currently implementing in the Boston area. While AR opens up the possibility for new ways of seeing and interacting with the world, such initiatives in the civic space also raise questions around issues of access to technology, representation in participation, and digital equity.

A big thanks to Dillon Bustin, Artistic Director, Hibernian Hall, and his colleagues at Madison Park Development Corporation.


Notes from Tannaz Monfaredzadeh’s small group brainstorm raised the following questions:

Will virtual art eventually affect the real art? Are future artists coders?

·  Augmented Reality would be a powerful tool in the hands of artists in societies that suffer from lack of freedom of speech.

·   It could very much help in civic campaigns. AR has a great potential to become a powerful political narrative.

·  Democratizing the art? Who will access to this type of art? Who is more willing to discover the virtual art?   I believe if the augmented reality represents an existing reality of a society that has been underrepresented, if it helps the excluded voices to be heard, people will become more and more eager to search for them and to discover them.  

· Can we download or save the virtual pieces of art? New series of applications could allow us to save the artwork upon the permission of the artist who has created it.

·  I would like to know about the platform on which the pieces of art are being uploaded. Is it accessible to public? Is it free? Is it like a domain to buy from IT providers? Is it possible to filter or luck it like the websites or apps that are being locked in some countries like Iran or China?


Notes from Abby Jamiel’s small group brainstorm raised the following questions:

- We assume that art is to be seen or experienced. However, by creating layers (some visible, some invisible), AR challenges this notion. How can we play with what is seen, what is not seen (and by whom)?

  •   Does this lead to a lack of narrative?
  •   If no one is aware the AR piece exists and never sees it, does it count as art?

  •  How can we use AR to expand of public memory? Is it a new way to create monuments?

  •  "Which people?" get to experience the AR?

  •  Who has the right to control the AR and who puts what where?

   + Can a park sue Pokemon Go if participants ruin the park while participating in the game?

   + If so, who will regulate this?

-Potential Directions

  • Can we create online database for all AR installations?

+Net Neutrality

  • What if AR is created by the culturally dominant voice?

          + What is the language and vocabulary used?

  • What if/ how can AR become more participatory?

    •   Creation of an app that allows users to manipulate the AR?

    •   Can it provide access and or build physiological walls?

    •   Does it change the power of voice?

  • Social media might be the way to make AR egalitarian

  • Urban planning and design! AR can be a way to see what will be the future of our city and space (providing hope, education, or terror ( i.e- global warming)

  • Commemorate/Personalizing your city with your own story (where you met your wife, where you used to live...)

    •  Does this personalization recraft the value of a city?

    •  Does this allow a voice for a new cultural dominance and significance?



I recently started going through the notes from our Workshops, dating back to January 2013 and continuing through to the present, just to remind myself about what all of us did/talked about/speculated about...different ways of completing the question, "What if...?" 

What was striking was the ongoing presence of a kind of theme that pervaded many – if not most – of the discussions, at least as captured in the notes, regardless of the specific topic. 

That theme – which I’ll call #CivicLife  -- was stated in multiple ways, including the following, via an eloquent comment from artist Eric Sealine:

The function of public art is to transform the way people respond to each other.  It has less to do with the object itself than with the community created by its effect on the people who see it.  If it is successful, they look at the object and then turn toward each other.  
In the case of Echelman's piece in Porto, people cross a busy intersection to spend time with each other in the space created by the sculpture.  Her "1.26" to me is an even more successful piece, even harder to read, even more unexpected.  Her pieces create what I think would be called in anthropological terms "ritual spaces," spaces in which the normal rules of (dis)engagement are changed.  When the gentleman [at the Workshop] asked "What are we transforming?" I was stumped.  Maybe the answer is, "We are transforming ourselves." 
I was recently in Chicago and saw Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate."  It has been renamed "The Bean" by the locals, and for very good reason; it is now their’s.  People who have no other connection to the art world know exactly how to regard the piece.  They play with it, and with each other.

I figure there's more to be done with -- and about -- this...about what Eric calls "the transformative function of art in public places": figuring out the different kinds of initiatives that could reflect that function...the different conditions within which such transformations might take place..and the different participants.

But this is me: what about you? What rings true -- even enticing! -- as you take a look or two at the notes:

  • What resonated? 
  • What would you like to pursue?
  • What would a new Workshop look like?
  • What if...?

Remember, there are no wrong answers: let's hear from you!!

Ron Mallis: Arts, publics, places: degrees of focus

I recently, and on separate occasions, got to hear David Delmar, from Resilient Coders (he participated in an "Arts and Ideas in Action" open forum organized by BU), and got to meet John Feinman, from Innercity Weighlifting (he was recommended by folks at Boston Properties). To cut to the chase: both David and Josh, and the organizations they lead, are remarkable, particularly, it seems to me, for the laser-like focus on their respective "publics," on their collaborative, one-on-one engagements with the individuals who comprise those publics, and on outcomes that are the product of those collaborations.

I wanted to get this down on (electronic) paper as a start to my being able to learn more about different aspects of discipline and deliberateness, and about where the links might be to a similarly collaborative practice of arts in public places. I'm not sure where this is headed, but I'm eager to find out.  

Ron Mallis: Metaphors, fractals, and art in public places

One of the Lab's major goals -- perhaps the major goal -- is to incubate new collaborations (emphasis intended) to support art in public places. Participants at the October 4 workshop -- "Civic Innovation, Digital Media, and Arts in Public Places" -- whether by design or otherwise surfaced any number of examples in which collaboration is a manifestation of informal social interaction rather than more formal partnerships. Candy Yang discussed the project "Traveling in Your Own Room," which she described as "exploring private space as a way of de-isolating people, creating community, becoming more intimate." Even -- or especially -- the "New York City Kids" project described in the New York Times, through text and "kids-produced" individual videos, is another example of how individual stories, artifacts, memories collectively can honor, via art, the public and the places. 

To repeat a sentiment I ran across not long ago: "Collaboration is not about gluing together existing egos. It's about the ideas that never existed until after everyone entered the room." And that room isn't necessarily indoors.

Altia Bend: Building the ArtsCommons

Evolution is any process of formation or growth; development.

Creating something as dynamic and innovative as the ArtsCommons takes both time and dedication. What started out as an idea is becoming a reality that will surely inspire and bring the community together.

Part of the formation in making something this great was considering the people it would affect. The ArtsCommons is for the community, so it was only right that we asked for their input about the idea. Before the process started, opinions were gathered from the public about what the next steps should be. Here are a few of the things people had to say:

“I would like to see more of an effort from the Lab in having meetings in various public spaces around the Greater Boston area so we are engaging the various communities and inviting more people to get involved wherever they are.”

“Continue to shine a spotlight on innovative art and the way it is being made. Explore how the art can best serve communities and the public. Start doing projects documenting projects, start branding BostonAPP/Lab...act as a facilitator, connector, consciousness-raiser.”

“[We should] form a communication network bridging various groups and disciplines to spread good ideas, help each other, and combat the traditional soiling of the Boston arts scene.”

Community outreach is only the first part of the evolution. One Saturday morning, members of the BostonAPP/Lab gathered together in the space that will eventually become the ArtsCommons. With no real resources available, they used wooden pallets and other pieces of wood to put together a “mock stage,” something they envisioned would be a part  of the final product.

It’s these simple gestures of bringing people together that will help execute the creation of the ArtsCommons and fulfill the goal of bringing together the community. 

Altia Bend: The Language of Collaboration

“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.” - Yehuda Berg

Words have the power to heal. Words have the power to inspire. Words can bring people together. Words can tell a story…

It is amazing what feelings one single word can evoke in someone’s heart to bring about memories and inspire creativity.

As an organization whose goal is to find new collaborations in the city and bring them to life, BostonAPP/Lab hopes to use the ArtsCommons as an outlet for people all over the community to express themselves and share their stories.

One of BostonAPP/Lab’s missions is to use words to join people together to tell their story through art. And one of our many ideas for the ArtsCommons is to create a space where people can be given – or can offer -- a single word and bring that word to life collectively.

The marriage of food and art: a ceremony of ideas, initiatives, inspiration

Participants in the Lab's January 26 workshop were given the opportunity to respond to the new Boston Public Market and its adjoining KITCHEN (yup, all caps!): what kinds of programming, partnerships, performances, installations will contribute to the vision for an active, exciting, unmissable  destination not only for Boston but for the region? There are no wrong answers, we said. And folks took us at our word: everything from latte art to bespoke music for each vendor to contemporary lighting to partnering with institutions ranging from Mass General Hospital to the North Bennett Street School. (You can see the array of suggestions in the Notes section of the website.)

Where do we go from here? Well, we'd hoped for a follow-up with The Trustees of Reservations (which is overseeing the KITCHEN) and the Boston Public Market Association in order to sketch out a kind of implementation roadmap, including a more in-depth examination of some of the ideas that emerged from the January 26 event. That may happen yet!

Stick around, to see what we'll be cooking up. (Yeah, I know. I should have resisted, but I couldn't.)



From grandiose statues of military men, to spray painted tags of local teenagers, a place is created, molded, dismantled, designed and energized with arts for (and by) the public. Arts in public places form communities and allow further engagement with one’s surroundings. Cities can be isolating, uniformed places, unfortunately often lacking in community spirit, or social interaction. The arts’ inclusion in modern urban living can act as placemaker and encourage attachment to a space.

Art in a gallery or museum is a fantastic resource but not always accessible or totally inclusive. Public art is free and interacts with our everyday life. It’s open to everyone. Boston APP/Lab recognizes this universality and we want to celebrate all that is great about our city!

Our mission is to identify, convene, and link individual and organizational talents, experiences, and ideas in order to incubate new collaborative initiatives—within and across public, private, and non-profit sectors, and at a variety of scales—on behalf of an expanded and inclusive vision for arts in Greater Boston's public places. But we need your help. In celebrating and sharing arts already in place, we are acknowledging its importance in our communities and emphasising it’s importance. We want to showcase the incredible creative minds and experiences throughout the Greater Boston area.

Get involved! Use your own social media accounts to share images and videos of Arts in public places. From graffiti to performance to the way fallen leaves make patterns on the sidewalk - we want to see it! With the hashtag #ArtsInPublicPlaces people and communities can connect and embrace the environments around them. We’re sharing our favorites on Instagram (@bostonapplab) and our website - so get involved and get published! Early next year we’ll be picking our favorite image or video from the hashtag and the lucky winner will get our first printed Boston APP/Lab T-Shirt, as well as a VIP invite to our APP Celebration Party!

By sharing what inspires and intrigues you and your community we’ll also be able to keep track of the kind of arts you want to see in public places. With your help we hope to move forward with plans in 2016 to bring more arts to your communities. Keep checking our social media accounts, as well as the hashtag to stay up to date on all we’re doing!



What is the ArtsCommons?

As a physical space: a portable black box for the visual and performing arts. 
As a social space: a catalyst for civic engagement. For artists, and for the communities within which they seek to thrive, the ArtsCommons will curate, collect, and display disparat e ideas, activities, improvisations, and installations.

The ArtsCommons is an outdoor, flexible, free-standing, and multi-purpose (art-) maker’s space able to support performances (spoken word, dance, music), installations, and exhibitions.


The City and its spaces allow for a mix of infinite numbers of activities and interactions. The City also needs spaces that foster those activities and interactions – that collaboration! The ArtsCommons is conceived as a democratic space – for artists and others interested in participating in this kind of democracy. 

We want to give that space to you...for you – whether individual or organization – to use in ways that only you can imagine. 

The ArtsCommons will be a place for artists to meet and collaborate. It will also serve to generate events through active participation by not only artists, but also neighborhood leaders and community members. Offering opportunities for this kind of collaboration serves as a profound example of community building that is creative in all senses. 

The possibilities are endless. 

What can artists and communities do together that they can't do separately? How can the visual and performing arts feed into, and be fed by, the talents, ideas, and imaginations of Boston's rich array of neighborhoods and the people who live and work in those neighborhoods? What kind of impact, in the end, will the ArtsCommons have on the spaces within which it will be sited, and on the City as a whole?

The Program:

A temporary curatorial team will identify the visual and performing artists whose works will serve as the ArtsCommons launches.