On October 12, Facebook, in partnership with New York’s El Museo del Barrio and San Francisco’s Mexican Museum, unveiled The ARt of My Roots, an augmented reality (AR) filter for Facebook and Instagram cameras. Timed for Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month, the project spotlights four key Latinx works from the museums’ collections, namely Alfredo Arreguín’s “Frida’s Messengers,” Martín de la Cruz’s “Wixárika Yarn Tabla,” Justin Favela’s “Plátanos Amarillos,” and Yvette Mayorga’s “The Procession.” The effects will be available through the end of the year.
Developed by digital innovation agency House of V on Facebook’s Spark AR platform, the AR program invites viewers to engage with art from the comfort of their own homes, while vitally platforming the work of Latinx artists. “The idea of visualizing the piece in your home, or in the environment of your choosing allows you to do a close-up on the piece,” said Bertha Rodriguez, COO of the Mexican Museum, in a statement, “offering the possibility to better experience the artwork.”
How it works
By scanning a QR code or accessing the museums’ accounts, Facebook and Instagram mobile users can unlock an effects filter that virtually displays the artworks within their physical environment. The back-facing camera enables viewers to pan across the works, “place” them on any surface, and listen to audio commentary by the artists. Users of the front-facing camera are situated within a gallery view where they can zoom into the artworks and, of course, snap a selfie.
Why it matters
As highlighted by Rose Mary Cortes, El Museo’s Director of Marketing and Communications, the use of AR here enables the museums to “not only reach new audiences that enjoy innovative ways of engaging with technology and art, but also those that are not able to physically come to the museum.” And particularly so for the Mexican Museum, which is currently closed in preparation for its move to a new location.
The use of AR filters has also grown in popularity among cultural organizations, whether on TikTok or Snapchat. While obviously reaching a young and digitally savvy audience, these effects inject a playful and social element into the art experience, greatly broadening the project’s reach and engagement.
Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month or not, diversity too remains to be a goal that cultural practitioners continue to rightly agitate toward — one that shouldn’t solely be reflected on gallery walls and in museum collections, but amplified with creative technologies. Tools such as AR, then, which offer a literal/virtual shift in viewers’ surroundings, make fitting mediums with which to platform new and diverse perspectives, while expanding existing ones.