Nancy Baker Cahill Studio, Los Angeles, CA
This summer, I had the unique pleasure of interning with new media artist Nancy Baker Cahill ’92 and her augmented reality (AR) public art app, 4th Wall. As a practicing visual artist, Baker Cahill centers her practice on ideas of power, selfhood, and embodied consciousness through three-dimensional drawings and animations and explorations of shared immersive space in the virtual and augmented reality spheres. With these themes in mind, she created the app in 2018 which allows one to place her dimensional drawings wherever one is simply by moving around a smartphone’s camera to create a sense of space. In addition, she has curated and used the app to host augmented reality exhibitions wherein one can visit a specific location such as the Los Angeles State Historic Park in Chinatown and view work that has been geo-anchored there.
Although the pandemic is still very much present, augmented reality projects such as 4th Wall and others that Baker Cahill creates are perfect for the current moment. I was fortunate to participate in meetings for Baker Cahill’s collaboration with ICAR, the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, which entailed the building of a new app to host an exhibition of four artists’ work across Washington, D.C., that brings together activism, art, tech, and ultimately speaks truth to power—all key qualities to Baker Cahill’s practice. Another project I worked on was redocumenting Defining Line, an exhibition co-curated by Baker Cahill and Debra Scacco that placed site-relevant AR works along the Los Angeles River to prompt explorations and engagements recognizing the river’s vital role in shaping the city and its histories. Through both of these projects and the various problems that arose (i.e. ICAR had to be delayed by a month to rework the artists’ respective ideas, find an artist who specifically tackled the prison industrial complex and relocate certain sites that were geographically too close to each other), I learned significant lessons about successful artist-centric collaborations.
Prior to working with Baker Cahill, I served as one of two directors of our high school’s student-run and -curated gallery which is what sparked my interest in working with artists and devoting my career to such a pursuit. Yet, even though I worked with leading contemporary artists through that position such as Ed Ruscha, Tim Hawkinson, Carolina Caycedo, and Meg Cranston, it was ultimately for a specific purpose—an exhibition—rather than an extended period of time. By working with Baker Cahill this past summer, I was able to learn much more about the daily challenges and accomplishments that artists experience, whether it be a meeting with the app developer or winning a significant award. Moving forward, I know that I definitely want to continue working with artists, most ideally in a collaborative role situated between studio management and curatorial.
I’m immensely grateful to Mary Richardson Anderson and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for supporting my experience these past few months.