John Craig Freeman and Mark Skwarek

The Border Memorial: Frontera de los Muertos, ICA

The Border Memorial: Frontera de los Muertos, is an augmented reality public art project and memorial, dedicated to the thousands of migrant workers who have died along the U.S./Mexico border in recent years trying to cross the desert southwest in search of work and a better life.

Screenshot by Hana Carpenter.

Built for smart phone mobile devices, this project allows people to visualize the scope of the loss of life by marking each location where human remains have been recovered with a virtual object or augmentation. The public can simply download and launch a mobile application and aim their device’s cameras at the landscape along the border and the surrounding desert. The application uses geolocation software to superimpose individual augments at the precise GPS coordinates of each recorded death, enabling public to see the objects integrated into the physical location as if they existed in the real world.

Screenshot by Hana Carpenter, 2011.

Based on a traditional form of wood-carving from Oaxaca, The virtual augmentation objects consist of life sized, three dimensional geometric models of a skeleton effigy or calaca. Calacas are used in commemoration of lost loved ones during the Mexican Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead festivals. Tracing their origins from Aztec imagery and ushered into the modern era at the turn of the twentieth century by Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada, calacas are generally depicted as joyous rather than mournful. According to Aztec belief, despite the tragedy, death should always be a joyous occasion. In the tradition of Día de los Muertos, the Border Memorial project is designed to honor, celebrate and remember those who have died and to vault this issue into public consciousness and American political debate. The project will provide a kind of lasting conceptual presence in an otherwise ephemeral physical environment and cultural discourse.

Screenshot by Tamiko Thiel.

John Craig Freeman and Mark Skwarek have augmented much of the harbor around the ICA Boston with calacas in reference to the larger project in the region around the U.S./Mexico border.

The Border Memorial: Frontera de los Muertos project site.

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