Skip to Main Content

Existing in the In-Between: Nancy Baker Cahill’s New Media Practice11:04

Nancy Baker Cahill is a new media artist who examines themes of power, selfhood, and embodied consciousness through drawing and shared immersive space. Baker Cahill’s artwork pushes the boundaries of visuality, redefining what it means to be a digital artist working in public space. Her spatial creations are often presented in augmented reality (AR) and are accessed via her free app, 4th Wall. Through the app, Baker Cahill has created a platform where viewers can immerse themselves in her virtual artwork as well as the work of other artists. As a curator, Baker Cahill uses 4th Wall to explore resistance and creative inclusion, by collaborating with other artists and inviting them to share urgent concerns or untold stories.

Through the Coordinates feature of the app, Nancy Baker Cahill and other artists exhibit AR pieces, geolocated in historic or culturally charged locations, challenging systemic power structures and the very idea of monumentality. Baker Cahill’s 2020 AR artwork “Liberty Bell”, commissioned by the Art Production Fund, interrogates the concept of liberty, particularly against the backdrop of structural inequality and erasure in the United States. Her animated AR drawing, made of tangled and chaotic red white and blue threads, sways rhythmically over various U.S. historical sites, encouraging viewers to examine what liberty means to them. 

Physical embodiment is central to Baker Cahill’s practice. Her artwork, rooted in the traditional practice of drawing, engages the contradictions inherent in immersive media—invisibility/visibility, real/virtual as they expand understandings of consciousness. According to Baker Cahill, her analog and digital artworks are now fully enmeshed as her foundation in analog drawing informs her work in extended reality (XR) and vice versa. In each of her artworks, the sensorial and spatial innovations ask viewers to re-contextualize the world around them -- even prompting the question, “what does it feel like to walk through a drawing?” In all media, her intention is to spark transformative experiences that in turn provoke conversation and initiate a broader cultural dialogue. 

Nancy Baker Cahill’s AR public art project, “Liberty Bell”, commissioned by Art Production Fund, earned features in the New York Times, frieze Magazine, Artnet, Smithsonian Magazine and the Washington Post, and appeared in Artnews’ list, The Defining Public Artworks of 2020. Baker Cahill was also included in ARTnews’ list of 2021 Deciders. 

Her 2018 TED talk, “Augmented Reality” (AR) as an “Artist’s Tool for Equity and Access,” launched her international public speaking practice. She has since delivered keynotes at the 2019 Games For Change, 2020 A.W.E. (Augmented World Expo) and has spoken at the Hirshhorn Museum and numerous academic institutions and conferences. Baker Cahill is an artist scholar in the Berggruen Institute’s Transformations of the Human Fellowship, and is an artist resident at Oxy Arts' Encoding Futures Residency, focused on AR monuments. She is the Art and Creative Technologies Advisor for the XRSI Safety Initiative, and is a member of the Guild of Future Architects. In 2021, she was awarded the Williams College Bicentennial Medal of Honor. Her recent clean NFT art collaboration, “Contract Killers”, is currently exhibited in the historic “Proof of Art” exhibition at the Francisco Carolinum Museum in Linz, Austria.

Crew Credits:

Creator and Executive Producer - Hernán Díaz Alonso
Producers - Marcelyn Gow/Reza Monahan
Segment Producer - Vivian Charlesworth

Story Producer - Vivian Charlesworth
Editors - Dillon Novak/Reza Monahan

Soundtrack -
"Lonely Satellite" by Mystery Mammal
License -

Additional Images and Video Provided by Nancy Baker-Cahill

Special thanks to Dakota Peterson

©2021 SCI-Arc Channel