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In 2013, JR began Inside Out, a participatory art project that activates, well, the entire world. The ongoing initiative invites individuals and communities to create and display massive black-and-white portraits in statement-making public installations. Since launch, more than 400,000 participants across 138 countries have taken part in these “actions,” leveraging the outdoor art format to draw awareness to issues ranging from feminism to climate change.

Nearly a decade on, Inside Out is getting a digital extension. In partnership with experiential art gallery Superblue, the French artist will be unveiling JR Reality, an interactive platform that once again calls upon the public to participate, this time in augmented reality (AR).

What’s happening

JR Reality invites users to create “living murals” in their cities by leaving personal images and messages at select locations, which can then be viewed in AR. Images: JR Reality

Accessible exclusively on the Superblue mobile app, JR Reality presents users with an interactive map, geo-tagged with locations. Users are asked to “chronicle their cities” by visiting these sites in person to leave personal images or voice messages, creating a “living mural” that can then be experienced in AR. They’ll also have the option to view these murals or share their stories remotely under the My Stories tab. Notably, the platform was built by Niantic (the company best known for developing Pokémon Go), which deployed its Lightship Visual Positioning System that binds an AR experience to a particular location.

JR Reality is currently in beta as it first rolls out in San Francisco. New York City will be added to the experience in the fall, before other cities including London, Paris, Los Angeles, and Miami join the line-up.

Why it matters

JR Reality

Image: © JR Reality

AR strikes again — and with JR Reality, has been smartly leveraged for its remote and thus, global reach. While the technology was used over lockdowns by cultural organizations eager to sustain audience engagement, AR has proven a remarkable tool to enrich in-person participation, innovating the ways in which viewers engage with art onsite.

Here, the AR-powered platform additionally captures the original intent of Inside Out by centering community perspectives and collective participation.

The experience, too, will be a boon to Superblue’s developing app, if not its immersion-centric brand. Presently, the platform gathers videos of the installations available at the venue, in addition to ticketing information, with other artist experiences and a shop still in the works. JR Reality, as it aims to build an ongoing AR community network, might help motivate user downloads of the application, while ensuring it a shelf life beyond that of a single-use app.

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What JR said

“Have you ever passed somebody on the street and wondered what their story is? Or looked up through a window and wondered who lives there? In my latest work, everyone is invited to leave portraits and voice messages attached to a special place. It’s time to go outside and explore, and reconnect with one another and show the world your face again. Together, we can tell the world your story and meet the amazing people that live in your city.” — JR, Artist

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