American artist Judy Chicago has today launched her first virtual artwork, an augmented reality recreation of her renowned Smoke Sculptures, part of the Atmospheres series that saw her set off clouds of multi-coloured smoke in California. Made with Berlin-based, non-profit art foundation Light Art Space and designers International Magic, the Judy Chicago Rainbow AR app allows users to place virtual smoke grenades in their immediate surroundings, then watch and interact with the billowing clouds in the space around them via their phones.
The original Atmospheres series was realised from 1968-1974 in California, and saw the artist stage site-specific events using fireworks, dry ice and smoke bombs to “feminise the atmosphere” during a time when the southern California art scene was almost entirely male-dominated. The epic, immersive experiences were intended, her website says, to “transform and soften” the landscape. In 2015 she built on the historic series with a fireworks piece titled A Butterfly for Brooklyn in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, accompanying a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum.
Chicago says in a video introducing the app: “I do not think art can change the world, I think art can educate, inspire, empower people to act.” The aim of the project is to bring the experience of the smoke sculptures to audiences around the world “who might not be familiar with my long-standing efforts to soften and feminise the often-harsh, patriarchal world around us,” Chicago says in a statement. “At this moment in time, it seems even more important to offer the opportunity to bathe our environments with light, art and beauty in order to inspire hope and through a visual metaphor, suggest the possibility of positive change.”
Chicago conceived the scenography for the piece and chose the colours and sequencing, to offer a unique experience of her smoke performances “only possible in the virtual world” says LAS in a press release. It is accompanied by a soundtrack made by sound designer Colin Bailey, which uses soundscapes made from recordings from Judy Chicago’s work with pyrotechnician Chris Souza, of Pyro Spectaculars.