This past November I spent two weeks in Berlin and Paris roaming the streets for inspiration. I worked with classmates from my program at Parsons and students from KISD in Cologne. One group project, Graffiti Go! really captured my imagination. Follow the link to learn more.

The two cities, though distinct in their culture and aesthetics have one major thing in common- art is everywhere. In Graffiti Go! my classmates and I envisioned an augmented reality scavenger hunt as a commercialized product. I wanted to further that concept and imagine augmenting art as a medium for protest and guerilla art.

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December 18, 2019

By Mia Walsh, BBC

Augmented Artwork Sparks Political Intrigue

A new sensation has hit the streets and museums of Paris and Berlin. A collective of digital artists calling themselves HanselxGretel have launched a campaign throughout Berlin and Paris to augment works of art. The collective identify both contemporary and classical works of art and use GANs machine learning to make the art send a message in a process that the collective call “creative hijacking.” The anonymous collective are extremely illusive. No one knows the identity of any of the artists but many speculate that there may be some overlap between the digital activist group Anonymous.

Like Anonymous, the only direct communication the group engages in is via their Twitter account. The collective describes the experience as “A challenge to all citizens to follow the bread crumbs to enlightenment.” In a statement released via Twitter in October the group accused the leaders of the European Union of moral elitism and challenged citizens to reckon with the means of their affluence.

“Our countries have placed themselves on a moral pedestal. We choose to romanticize our imperial legacy. We choose to forget the legacy of the means of our wealth. We are like Hansel and Gretel, skipping to our demise. Let us wake you up.”

Every Friday the collective tweets a new GPS location followed by #HanselxGretel and followers flock to the location to find the augmented artwork. Recent locations have included Rue Denoyez in Paris and the Altes Museum in Berlin.

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The augmented artwork can be revealed via a free mobile app developed by the collective. Users can fully immerse themselves in the augmented experience using Google cardboard viewers. Once the artwork is revealed, it comes to life before the user’s eyes.

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The collective has indicated that each message collected are components of a larger statement. Although, there is no indication of what that statement might be as of yet. Experts believe that the messages collected are actually components of a decryption key. Many speculate that the key might decrypt sensitive government documents from EU officials. Politicians- perhaps anxious at the prospect of more civil unrest- have made efforts to quell the conspiracy theories with statements calling for the need for harmony in light of recent protests over government cover ups. What the collective has planned for the future is impossible to tell but for now they have two of Europe’s largest cities on the edge of their seats.