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Catch ‘Liberty Bell’ on your iPhone today at the Art Museum steps. It’s like Pokemon Go, but arty.

Philadelphia Inquirer logo Philadelphia Inquirer 7/4/2020 By Becky Batcha, The Philadelphia Inquirer

A major augmented reality artwork is set to debut July 4 at sites in six U.S. cities, including the Art Museum steps in Philly, according to its organizers. Viewers who download an app and bring their phones to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway will be able to watch artist Nancy Baker Cahill’s work Liberty Bell appear, Pokemon Go-style, hovering in the air above the museum.

The augmented reality work shows an animated bell shape made of red, white, and blue ribbons of color. It swings and rings — eventually deconstructing then reconstructing in what the artwork’s local sponsors describe as “an uncomfortable, but cohesive moment.” It’s about a minute and a half long.

Liberty Bell is intended to raise questions of what freedom means right now — and for whom — as the country endures a pandemic and citizens demand racial justice, Baker Cahill says.

“From its origins in American history, ‘liberty’ was only available to a certain demographic and came at great expense to others,” she said in a statement accompanying the work’s release. “You can’t have a conversation about freedom and not talk about the history of slavery and inequality in the United States. … That’s the conversation we need to have.”

In addition to Philadelphia, Liberty Bell is also scheduled to debut at sites in Boston, Washington, D.C., Charleston, S.C., Selma, Ala., and Rockaway, N.Y. The work was commissioned by the Art Production Fund, and is sponsored in Philadelphia by the Association for Public Art.

“At this profound historic moment when centuries of racial injustice have come to a head, we are moved and inspired by the artist’s expression of the bell as both ‘a warning and a celebration,’ said Penny Balkin Bach, APA executive director, in the statement. “It’s not a 4th of July spectacle; it’s a meditative reflection of what many are feeling right now.”

Full instructions for seeing and hearing the artwork are on the Art Production Fund website, artproductionfund.org. You’ll need to download Baker Cahill’s 4th Wall app from the App Store or Google Play, using Wifi. The app works on iPhones 6s and above (iOS11 and up), any iPad AR capability, and Androids with AR Core.

Viewers should “Allow Access” to photos, microphone, camera, and location, and be sure the device’s sound is on. Organizers say the 4th Wall app does not collect any user data.

The best vantage points will be from the bottom of the steps from the Oval Park across the street, APA says.

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