A mobile site-specific video archive for public space
augmented[archive] a digital art and research project for Cairo’s (and basically any) urban space. A growing archive, a topography of the possible, a map of fragments from a city’s manifold presents. The project takes the form of a spatial narrative, functioning like a speculative archaeological tool, leading you through real and virtual ruins of the past, present and future of the city and its imaginary expansions. Its framework is that of media architecture, a GPS-based archive that can be read and rewritten, open for your thoughts and interaction. It is a guide that speaks of the various contestations of the city and your personal encounters with and within them. You have to use a device to enter this virtual palimpsest—a smartphone or a tablet—as well as your imagination. Think of Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project in the digital age of transmission and real time: a fragmentary poem guiding you through actual and potential disasters and desires, spaces and times of here and now. Walking with your device, you experience video documents recorded at the same place at other times; performances that are absent yet present; associative storytelling that is dreamlike yet hyper-real; suggestive instructions that ask for your own contribution and continuation of a story that is conflicted, disjointed and elusive—like yourself and the city around you.
The augmented[archive] explores the changing medialities of the archival in its transition from a mode of recording and storing to a means of transmission. It is built as an iOS/Android app, employing GPS data, Augmented Reality and video streaming technology. It makes the various layers of a story, a city available site-specifically, i.e. at the location of their initial recording via GPS and mobile devices. Users of the app can thus explore the urban space through various layers, juxtaposing different layers of time onto a specific site as they are passing through it. Its media framework is conceived as an expanding, interactive platform enabling its users to contribute to this archive, by recording and uploading videos and other contributions to the narrative architecture themselves, giving form to the idea of a collection of speculative thought.
We are used to navigate through our present via GPS and mobile devices, always aware of our real-time coordinates in actual and virtual worlds. Yet how can we employ these technologies critically? How can we navigate our multi-layered past bringing it into our immediate present? In the age of constant connectivity traditional forms of historiography fail to reflect our shifting sense of time and space, of a present that is enmeshed in the vast, instantly available repositories of our past-future. The augmented[archive] is an attempt to give form to this complex condition and generate possible archeologies of our present.