Last Updated on November 29, 2023
Kinfolk, the digital platform with a mission to bring Black and Brown narratives to the forefront through immersive augmented reality (AR) experiences, announces the Signature Series, its first artist partnership program. Signature Series will debut with multidisciplinary artists Derrick Adams, Hank Willis Thomas, Pamela Council and Tourmaline, to install special in-app AR monuments featuring new and existing artwork that reframe the past and reimagine public spaces involving Black narratives, past and present.
The launch of the Signature Series coincides with Kinfolk’s rollout of their location-based feature; powered by Niantic Lightship, Kinfolk will track locations and leverage mapping technology to create an ‘augmented reality’ in which digital monuments can be viewed in real locations, forcing users to confront locations within a new context.
Kinfolk’s extensive digital archive can be accessed across locations nationally and offers a dynamic database that relies on community engagement to demystify history and bring underrepresented narratives closer than ever before.
“These four incredible collaborations are prime examples of how we can embed our culture into the fabric of the country, unearthing the histories of the Black, Brown, and LGBTQ communities,” Kinfolk Co-Founder Idris Brewster said. “By co-creating monuments with artists, while harnessing the potential of augmented reality, Kinfolk is able to reimagine our public spaces. Our Signature Series is the next step in the evolution of our platform within the public realm. With our location-based technology, we can create public art exhibitions with ease, giving access to artworks and histories that would have been otherwise inaccessible or forgotten.”
With his Alma Green (Open Book) and Victor Hugo Green (Open Book) monument, Derrick Adams conceptualizes two green marble busts in honor of the couple who founded the Green Book – the indispensable travel guide, published during the segregation era, which identified businesses that would accept African American customers. The digital monument is erected in proximity to sites featured in the original Green Book, the plaza at the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building.
“It was very important to see someone who took an initiative in a tumultuous time in history, when violence and oppression were existing all around Black Americans,” Adams said while discussing his two years of research into the topic before his body of work was completed. “Mr. Green and his wife Alma decided to create possibility through a publication that will connect people as a counter-response to the conditions of society at the time. As an artist, I was excited about responding to that history.”
HANK WILLIS THOMAS
Hank Willis Thomas has digitized his iconic All Power to the People monument – the recognizable afro pick monument previously featured in the physical world. Leveraging the less restricted capabilities of the digital realm, Thomas is able to produce a 50-foot-tall version of his monument, along the East River in New York and viewable from the Brooklyn Bridge Pier 1.
“Growing up in New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC, monumental sculptures played a major role in my psychology as a youth,” says Thomas. “I was always inspired by the quotidian objects that inspired Claes Oldenburg’s sculptures, like the thimble on 42nd Street, The Statue of Liberty is the icon of the gateway to New York, and I believe it can be complimented by this new version of All Power To All People. Being seen as beautiful and worthy of celebration has been a central driver of people to New York City, and there are no larger symbols of collective beauty to many of us as the Afro pick.”
Building on a body of work called Fountains for Black Joy, A Fountain for Survivors is both an ode to the ways in which we maintain ourselves and an exuberant life-affirming monument for survivors of all kinds. Located in Gansevoort Peninsula, this digitized version of the original, physical work, which debuted in Times Square, is adorned with a mosaic of hundreds of thousands of acrylic fingernails within a massive cocoon-like structure that houses a tiered water fountain inside a warm, welcoming and enveloping space. This is Pamela’s first digital public art project.
“A Fountain for Survivors, my first public artwork, is my monument to maintain,” Council said. “I answered Times Square Arts’ call for an uplifting fountain that could stand in Times Square at the height of the pandemic. Although it was installed for a brief time and made from non-traditional materials (400,000 acrylic fingernails!), its legacy endures. For me, the work stands a testament to what’s possible when you honor your vision and work courageously with a community. A Fountain for Survivors, in its materials and its life after first installation, asks questions about survival— who and what do we value, keep well-polished, and care for?”
Tourmaline presents Alien Superstar, a building-sized monument to Mary Jones, one of the earliest recorded trans women in American history. The name is an inverse of Man Monster, and a nod to Beyonce, who was inspired by Black trans life for that song and her recent album. The 3D recreation of Mary Jones is located at 108 Greene Street, where Mary Jones had lived in the early 19th century.
Following activist, writer and filmmaker Tourmaline’s film of the same name, Salacia is a challenge to state-sponsored transphobic violence and the racialized incarceration that brutalizes and stigmatizes queer ethnic minorities.
“Engaging in the Signature Series with Kinfolk is a monumental step in our collective journey to visual and historical rectification,” says Tourmaline. “The AR creation of Mary Jones, located at her historical residence – then a brothel where she lived with other girls of ‘ill fame’ – serves not merely as a homage, but as a living, breathing testament to our enduring existence and resilience. This initiative is a time bending portal inviting the viewer into the transformative energy of our ancestors including Mary Jones, who are still here.”
Monuments from the Signature Series debuted in October of 2023 and will be ever evolving, featuring new works from various artists and creatives periodically.
“Monuments matter in civic spaces because they hold the power to shape our collective narratives and consciousness. They stand as silent storytellers, each one whispering tales of our shared past, serving as a reflection of what we, as a society, have chosen to value and remember,” Brewster said. “While the signature series starts in NYC, our plans are to expand our public monuments nationwide over the next three years,” Brewster adds.
Kinfolk is free to download in Apple and Google app stores.