An activist artwork created by visual and performance artists CASSILS and rafa esparza that grew to include some 80 artists, In Plain Sight is taking messages of racial equality, decarceral imperatives, public health and immigration justice to the skies above detention facilities, immigration courts, historical internment camp sites and other historically relevant public landmarks, like Ellis Island and border region locations across America. And they’re doing it to commemorate the Fourth of July — lighting up the skies with fireworks of a different variety: truth.
The project is conceived in six parts, beginning with the most high profile, literally — the coordinated nationwide deployment of skywriting planes, and its AR analog — an app-based corollary that lets the messages be “viewed” in the mixed reality space of artist Nancy Baker Cahill’s 4th Wall App. A free, augmented reality public art platform 4th Wall app also features site-specific recreations of the skywritings, which when paired with the site’s interactive map means this action can endure in the VR world long after the smoke and vapor has drifted away.
All of this content, further education resources and an interactive map to find not only these art installations but the facilities in your own region that deserve further scrutiny, lives at the XMAP website, which is more than an archive of this weekend’s actions. It also contains and will grow with ongoing content to support the movement, including a documentary video series, a downloadable action-taking toolkit, crucial information resources and support from education and cultural institutional partners.
Written with water vapor, the messages can be seen and read for miles, by not only the art and public audiences, but potentially, hopefully by the incarcerated themselves. Short messages like SHAME and DEFUND HATE (CASSILS), CARE NOT CAGES (Patrisse Cullors), NOSOTRAS TE VEMOS (Zackary Drucker), ABOLITION NOW (Ken Gonzales-Day), NO CAGES NO JAULAS (Beatriz Cortez) and the like are all tagged the #XMAP, the better to lead audiences to the project site. Devon Tsuno’s “956-701-0149” is a local Laredo, TX number that when called plays recorded readings of correspondence from detained immigrants. Dread Scott’s message is “Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia,” which is the name of the first immigrant to die in detention from Covid-19, in a perfect encapsulation of how issues of racial, immigration, and public health policy intersect.
The coalition of participating artists includes some of the most well-known voices and activist leaders representing a range of age, gender identity, and lived experiences. Among the artists are Dread Scott; Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors; Emory Douglas, former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party; trans activist Zackary Drucker; Titus Kaphar whose recent cover for TIME magazine depicts a grieving black mother; and Hank Willis Thomas, founder of For Freedoms along with scores of other artists’ voices — as well as viewers documenting the experience on social media and in the 4th Wall app.