ManifestAR @ the BIC

Manifest.AR @ BIC: Seeking San Joaquin Valley

March 21, 2013

Manifest.AR is an international artists’ collective working with emergent forms of augmented reality as interventionist public art. During the 2012 ZERO1 Biennial, the group responded to the theme of the biennial, “Seeking Silicon Valley,” by created a citywide augmented reality public art exhibition with parallel components at the Samek Art Gallery at Bucknell University in Lewisburg Pennsylvania. Titled “Manifest.AR @ BIC,” the group drew on collective, participatory art practices centered on mobile augmented reality technology to aggregate and map a series of artworks, which re-imagined and reinterpreted the high-tech corporate campuses and products of Silicon Valley. Performative and site-specific works were located throughout the cities of San Jose, San Francisco and Lewisburg.

Whereas the public square was once the quintessential place to air grievances, display solidarity, express difference, celebrate similarity, remember, mourn, and reinforce shared values of right and wrong, it is no longer the only anchor for interactions in the public realm. That geography has been relocated to a novel terrain, one that encourages exploration of mobile location based art. Moreover, public space is now truly open, as artworks can be placed anywhere in the world, without prior permission from government or private authorities – with profound implications for art in the public sphere and the discourse that surrounds it.

Distributed Curatorial Practice and Exhibition Strategy:
Led by a collective curatorial team including Jessica Gomula of the Building Imagination Center, Jaime Austin of ZERO1, Richard Rinehart of Samek Gallery, and Lanfranco Aceti of Kasa Gallery and Leonardo Electronic Almenac, Manifest.AR members will create iterations of the work produced for ManifestAR @ ZERO1, and modify it where necessary to address the change of context to Modesto. With its genesis in Silicon Valley the work will spread to the Central Valley as if on the prevailing winds. “Manifest.AR @ BIC: Seeking San Joaquin Valley,” will act as a prototype to explore how distributed inter-institutional curatorial approaches might support emerging distributed collective art practices.

Specific projects include:

  • “Monument to Cesar Chavez,” by John Criag Freeman
  • “Parking Lot  / Farm Decorator,” by Will Pappenheimer
  • “CreatAR,” by Mark Skwarek
  • “ARt Critic Face Matrix” by Tamiko Thiel
  • “Fortune 500 Cookies” by Tamiko Thiel
  • “From Silicon Valley to San Joaquin,” by John Craig Freeman, Mark Skwarek and Lily & Honglei
  • “Chinese Take Out,” by 4Gentlemen


The Documentary Film:
With support from the BIC’s 2013 Residence Filmmaker Challenge, a  documentary film was produced about the project in Modesto, along with artist interviews sent from afar.



Monument to César Chávez,
by John Craig Freeman

Monument to César Chávez is an augmented reality public art project dedicated to César Chávez and the migrant workers who have died making the San Joaquin Valley one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. Built for smart phone mobile devices, this project allows people to see human-sized virtual calacas harvesting produce along the 10th Street pedestrian mall between J and K Streets in downtown Modesto. Based on a traditional form of wood-carving from Oaxaca, the calacas are integrated into the physical location as if they existed in the real world.

Born in 1927, César Chávez, was an American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist, who, along with Dolores Huerta, co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers union (UFW). César Chávez became the best known Latino American civil rights activist. His approach to unionism and aggressive but nonviolent tactics made the farm workers’ struggle a moral cause with nationwide support. By the late 1970s, his tactics had forced growers to recognize the UFW as the bargaining agent for 50,000 field workers in California and Florida.

César Chávez, who died April 23, 1993, became a hero of mine in the 1980s when I was studying public art and activism at the University of California San Diego.



Parking Lot / Farm Decorator, by Will Pappenheimer
WE all know that parking lots are very bland and unappealing. There is a certain emptiness we feel about these areas, as if they were unimportant or lost. In Modesto, California, there are many parking lots downtown developed to replace abandoned buildings through difficult times in the past. What if we could decorate these parking lots with fantastic color! Now you can, with the Parking Lot Decor App. You choose a color and size for a color panel, then you walk around with your phone and click a button to put up a panel where you are standing. The colors we use reflect the favorite colors of the semiconductor and software companies of Silicon Valley, the other side of California that is become so successful. Modesto is also a key city in the California Central Valley that is known for its rich farmland. Thousands of workers go to work each day in endless open fields to bring us the low priced foods we depend on every day. These fields might need decoration also. So the Parking Lot Decor App can be used to beautify the horizon where the crops meet the sky. Parking Lot Decorator is a participatory augmented reality generator that invites the public to creatively address sites that normally escape attention, yet result from important social and economic influences in a given location. The project is a gesture to give the populace access to intervening or retaking these sites.


creatAR, by Mark Skwarek
Now you can create ANYTHING… ANYWHERE!! Just by using your smartphone or tablet!
Simply ask for it, and it will appear! Need a new car, more credit, or even your own island! No problem for CreatAR! Ask CreatAR and your wishes will come true. And the best thing is that is that it’s FREE! CreatAR uses augmented reality, voice recognition, and GPS technology to turn your mobile device into the world’s most powerful tool for creation and intervention. The app will allow you to edit the world around you, adding and deleting wherever you want. You can even place objects a world away with a map interface that’s built into the app. Send something home to mom!


Fortune 500 Cookies, by Tamiko Thiel
Fortune 500 Cookies are golden wafers of silicon that were first discovered in Silicon Valley. Their peculiar appearance, unusual for fortune cookies, indicates they are derived from the Intel 4004 chip. This was the world’s first microprocessor, brought to market in 1971 by Silicon Valley pioneer Intel Corporation, which led to digital life as we know it today. Fortune Magazine has disclaimed any knowledge of these cookies but it is rumored they were developed at a secret investment capital laboratory based in Silicon Valley. Fortune 500 Cookies seem to have propagated around the world, and are frequently sited at centers of creativity and innovation. Recent sightings have been confirmed in Modesto in the vicinity of the Building Innovation Center of the CSU Stanislaus. Read more.


From Silicon Valley to San Joaquin,
by John Craig Freeman and Lily & Honglei

The connection from the high-tech corporate campuses of Silicon Valley to the agribusinesses of the San Joaquin Valley can be traced in the migration of the worlds manufacturing on its never ending quest for the least expensive, least regulated labor force and the trail of economic devastation it leaves in its wake. Viewed through their own mobile device, the augmented reality public art project “From Silicon Valley to San Joaquin” asks the audience to consider their own implications in this global history.


Chinese Take Out, by 4Gentlemen
With locations at the Presidio overlook of the Golden Gate; as well as the Powell Street cable car turntable at Market Street; the Gates of San Francisco’s Chinatown at Bush Street and Grand Avenue; and now in Downtown Modesto, “Chinese Take Out,” by 4Gentlemen, visualizes the gruesome reality that the Chinese government has been systematically harvesting organs from imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners for profit.


ARt Critic Face Matrix, by Tamiko Thiel
“You call this ART???” In this animated, self-referential augmented reality artwork, critics’ faces range from skeptical to outraged. Seen at fine art museums worldwide, such as the Building Imagination Center, San Jose Museum of Art, San Francisco MoMA, NY MoMA, ICA Boston, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and Hayward Gallery London. Read more.


  • To view the work on any late model iPhone or Android, enter in your web browser or download any free code reader app (, press the scan button and aim at this code to open the project list
  • Choose a project from the list
  • If you don’t have the free Layar Augmented Reality Browser installed, you will be prompted to do so (

During the Post-World War Two era, the American economy thrived, as did organized labor, which gave rise to an unprecedented middle class in this country. America boasted manufacturing workforces that were second to none in the world.

In the 1970′s, in an effort to cut cost and boost profits, much of this manufacturing moved south to “right-to-work” states. A “right-to-work” law is a statute that prohibits agreements between labor unions and employers that make membership or payment of union dues a condition of employment.

Unsatisfied with the significant cost savings of the low paid, non-organized labor force of the South, multinational corporations pressed hard for trade agreements which would significantly ease labor restrictions in the unregulated labor markets abroad.

The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, was signed into law on January 1, 1994, giving rise to the Maquiladoras of Northern Mexico. Maquiladoras are manufacturing operations in free trade zones, where factories import material and equipment on a duty-free and tariff-free basis for assembly, processing, or manufacturing and then re-export the products, often back to the country of origin.

By the 2000s, China’s Deng Xiaoping policies of economic Reform and Opening began an even more unprecedented migration of manufacturing and assembly jobs to China. Supported in part by an aggressive and systematic suppression of the value of the Yuan, China’s currency, most of the electronic consumer good sold in the United States are manufactured or assembled in China today.

The success and profitability of the high-tech corporations of Silicon Valley can be traced in the migration of the worlds manufacturing on its never ending quest for the least expensive, least regulated labor force and the trail of economic devastation it leaves in its wake. The same could be said of the multinational agribusiness of California’s Central valley and its dependence on cheap migrant labor.



John Craig Freeman is a public artist with over twenty years of experience using emergent technologies to produce large-scale public work at sites where the forces of globalization are impacting the lives of individuals in local communities. His work seeks to expand the notion of public by exploring how digital networked technology is transforming our sense of place. Freeman is a founding member of the international artists collective ManifestAR and he has produced work and exhibited around the world including in Liverpool, Venice, Istanbul, Xi’an, Belfast, Los Angeles, Beijing, Zurich, New York City, Taipei, São Paulo, Warsaw, Kaliningrad, Miami, Bilbao, Havana, Atlanta, Calgary, Buffalo, Boston, Mexico City, London and San Francisco. In 1992 he was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has had work commissioned by the ZERO1 Biennial, and His work has been reviewed in The New York Times, El Pais, Liberation, Wired News, Artforum, Ten-8, Z Magazine, Afterimage, Photo Metro, New Art Examiner, Time, Harper’s and Der Spiegel. Christiane Paul cites Freeman’s work in her book Digital Art, Second Edition, as does Lucy Lippard in the Lure of the Local, and Margot Lovejoy in Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age. His writing has been published in Rhizomes, Leonardo, the Journal of Visual Culture, and Exposure. Freeman is an Associate Professor of New Media at Emerson College in Boston.


Will Pappenheimer is an artist and professor at Pace University, NY and a founding member of the Manifest.AR collective. Individually and as part of Manifest.AR he has exhibited in solo shows at the ICA in Boston, the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of
Art, Fringe Exhibitions in Los Angeles, Kasa Gallery, Istanbul, the DUMBO Arts Festival, and Pocket Utopia Gallery in New York. Together with the Manifest.AR collective, he participated in two highly publicized interventions at the Museum of Modern Art, NY, 2010 and the 2011 54th Venice Biennial. His work has been included in numerous group shows nationally and internationally, including Exit Art, Florence Lynch, Postmasters, and Vertexlist in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, San Jose Museum of Art in ISEA 06/ZeroOne, Kunstraum Walcheturm in Zurich, the Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, Ireland for ISEA 09, and FILE 2005 at the SESI Art Gallery, Sao Paulo. His grants include an NEA Artist Fellowship, Traveling Scholars Award from School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,, Rhizome,org at the New Museum, Lights On Tampa 2009, and FACT, Liverpool. His work and participation in Manifest.AR has been reviewed in Art in America, New York Times, WIRED, Modern Painters, the Boston Globe, EL PAIS, Madrid, Liberation, Paris, NY Arts International, and Art US. He has presented his work at the Eyebeam Atelier, the New Museum, the ITP Graduate Program, NYU and the College Art Association. For June, 2013, he is organizing a solo exhibition of the ManifestAR collective at FACT, the Foundation for Art and Technology in Liverpool, UK.


Mark Skwarek is a new media artist working to bridge the gap between virtual reality and the real world by using augmented reality technology. He is one of the founding members of the artist augmented reality group manifest.AR. Skwarek earned his M.F.A. from Rhode Island School of Design’s Digital Media Department. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses at New York University Polytech, where he is also a researcher in residence. Reviews of his artwork have appeared in the New York Times, Art in America, Boing Boing, WIRED, the Boston Globe, The Huffington Post, NPR, BBC, and Leonardo. Skwarek has exhibited in various venues, including: the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; ISEA; Dumbo Arts Festival, UCLA Digital Grad Gallery; the CyberArts Festival; the Sunshine International Art Museum, Beijing; and the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois;the Zero1 Biennial. Upcoming shows include FACT in Liverpool England, the Building Imagination Center, and the Nikolaj, Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center.


Tamiko Thielexhibits internationally in venues such as the Istanbul Biennial, the International Center for Photography in New York, the ICA Boston, the ZKM in Karlsruhe and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, and at festivals such as Siggraph, ISEA and Ars Electronica. As a founding member of the augmented reality artist group Manifest.AR she participated in the pathbreaking uninvited augmented reality intervention at MoMA NY in 2010, and was the main curator and organizer of their AR intervention at the Venice Biennial in 2011. Her artwork has been supported by grants from WIRED Magazine, the Japan Foundation, MIT, Berlin Capital City Cultural Fund and the IBM Innovation Award for Art and Technology. She has taught and lectured at institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University, the MIT Media Lab, the Bauhaus-University in Weimar/Germany, University of California/San Diego, the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television and the University of the Arts in Berlin, Germany. In 2013 she is a Fellow at the MacDowell Colony and helped win a Rockefeller Foundation Cultural Innovation grant for the Caribbean Cultural Center/African Diaspora Institute to teach augmented reality to artists in Harlem/New York City.


Lily & Honglei (Xiying Yang, Honglei Li) work as a new media artist collective. Their projects utilize traditional painting techniques and digital imaging technologies, including animation, virtual reality and augmented reality, to construct an in-between space reflecting Chinese cultural heritages and current social issues in the context of Global Era. Lily & Honglei exhibit art projects internationally. Their solo exhibitions are held in Germany, China, Australia, United States and Mexico. Their recently group exhibitions include, Locating the Sacred Festival initiated by Asian American Art Alliance, Interpreting Rituals: The Butterfly Effect exhibition held at New York Artist Residency & Studios Foundation, Curate NYC in New York, From Jamaica to China – A New Evolution at the Painting Center New York, Augmented Reality Intervention at the 54th Venice Biennale, Manifest.AR at Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, Jamaica Flux ’10 at Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning in New York, Moving Paper- cut paper animation festival at Museum of Art and Design in New York, Fluid New Media Art Festival at Queens Museum of Art in New York, New Ink Painting Generation exhibition in Shanghai University, FILE – Electronic Language International Festival in Brazil, Performing in Second Life at Eyebeam Art & Technology Center in New York, the 11th Consciousness Reframed International Research Conference in Norway, among many others. Lily & Honglei both studied fine arts in China and continued their education in art in the States. Lily Xiying Yang received Master of Fine Arts degree in Digital Media from College of Visual and Performing Arts at University of Massachusetts, while Honglei Li earned his MFA degree in Painting from the same school. Lily & Honglei currently work as independent artists in New York.


4Gentlemen is a collective of Chinese artists in exile and American artists. The name ‘4 Gentlemen’ refers to the group of Chinese intellectuals, namely Liu Xiaobo, Hou Dejian, Zhao Duo and Gao Xin, who actively participated and led Tiananmen Student Protest in 1989, and were consequently put into jail or fled abroad after June 4th , when Chinese government led by Deng Xiaoping cracked down the movement by killing many civilians with tanks and machine-guns. 4Gentlemen has launched a series of works criticizing human rights violations including repressions on religious freedom, intellectual freedom (Tank Man, Goddess of Democracy, Three  Wise Monkeys), and censorship (Great Firewall) in China, deploying new media technology, particularly Augmented Reality application for mobile phone. Through artistic practice, 4Gentlemen will continue striving for Freedom of Expression, of Publishing, of Petition, and of Religion, in China. As Yu Jie, the writer-in-exile,  stated in My Statement in Leaving China, Chinese intellectuals’ most pertinent task is enabling people ‘in China and beyond as well as the international community to see the truth behind China’s economic growth — reckless autocracy, rampant corruption, deterioration of human rights, damage to the environment, moral decline.’