Your smart phone can do the thinking for you, Scarecrow. In fact, during PIFA, you can even use your Android or iPhone to find public art hidden in plain sight.
A joint project of Breadboard (a division of the University City Science Center) and the Virtual Public Art Project (VPAP), "Augmented Reality" is a series of digital artworks visible only through your phone's viewfinder. All you need is a free app called Layar, which utilizes GPS technology to contextualize the virtual sculptures.
Founded last year by NY-based artist Chris Manzione, VPAP grew out of his sculpture background. After finishing grad school in 2009, he started experimenting with computer animation and 3-D modeling. "I was frustrated trying to get the models out of the computer and having people be able to interact with them," recalls Manzione. "Printing them in plastic ... takes a long time. Around that same time, Layar came out."
Meanwhile, Breadboard was looking for projects to supplement its mission — illuminating the intersection of art, science and technology. In 2010, director Dan Schimmel reached out to Manzione about bringing VPAP to Philadelphia for a pilot program. "That went off, and was really successful," says Schimmel. "Then PIFA contacted us."
The current exhibition — the largest of its kind in the world — has 30 works spread out all over Philadelphia, from Clark Park to the Delaware waterfront, with a concentration of installations in and around the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Manzione sees tremendous power in the medium, especially in our increasingly digital world. "They're site-specific," he says. "Your presence is required. I think that kind of goes against a lot of digital media. I can email anything to anyone or I can put it on the Web, but that's not really getting the public out interacting with the site itself. Also, I can put a 1,000-foot sculpture up, from my desk, and it can be hovering 100 feet in the air. Logistically, not so possible."
Augmented Reality, April 7-May 1; panel discussion, Tue., April 26, 6 p.m., free, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Perelman Building, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave., 215-546-7432, breadboardphilly.org.