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Artist Nancy Baker Cahill installs image of exploding uterus over Supreme Court building

The augmented reality installation ‘State Property’ can also be seen over the capitol buildings of states with the most extremist abortion laws.

By Rebekah Sager - May 01, 2023
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Exploding uterus art installation at Atlanta statehouse
In this image captured on a smartphone, an augmented reality image of a uterus created by artist Nancy Baker Cahill 'explodes' over the Georgia State Capitol. (Photo by Rebekah Sager; artwork by Nancy Baker Cahill.)

In her latest work, interdisciplinary artist Nancy Baker Cahill challenges extremist anti-abortion laws and those states with the most restrictive abortion bans. 

The image of a uterus exploding atop of the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as over four state capitol buildings and a federal courthouse in Texas, Baker Cahill explained, symbolizes thecruel externalities of these new laws and the degradation of democracy across multiple states.”

Her piece, titled “State Property,” is a sculpture of a fracturing uterus in crimson neon, created in an augmented reality. 

It is geolocated and site-activated, meaning that in order for a person to see it, they must download a free app founded by Baker Cahill and developed by Drive Studios and Shaking Earth Digital called the 4th Wall. Users must be a half-mile or closer to one of the sites and let the app use geolocation, or GPS, to display the image on their phones. They can then take videos or photos of the image of the uterus as it explodes and it will appear as if it is happening in real life. 

Baker Cahill told the American Independent Foundation:

If this particular piece articulates for someone, regardless of what their position is … a visceral understanding of what it is to have one of your organs … disembodied and essentially isolated as a site of public intervention and public criminalization … that, I hope, is what is expressed in this piece: that wombs have been identified and disembodied as sites of public, state, and in some cases federal intervention, that it doesn’t somehow belong to you. It belongs to the state. That’s why it’s called “State Property.”

Baker Cahill’s latest work stems from a geolocated drawing in augmented reality titled “Unprotected” that she had installed over the Supreme Court building in 2018 during the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh to the court and the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which she accused Kavanaugh of having sexually assaulted her.

“I thought, here I have this drawing that’s very visceral, and it’s very much sort of an abstraction of a body that’s been split, somewhat bound. And I added the word ‘unprotected’ to it because all of those narratives were emerging around sexual assault and sexual violence and the ways in which people were unprotected by not just culture, but by the law,” Baker Cahill said.

Baker Cahill initially posted “State Property” on her Instagram account in mid-April with text that read, “Today we installed ‘State Property’ over the US Supreme Court Building in Washington D.C. to protest the emergent brutality leveled at over half of the population after this disgraced court overturned Roe v Wade.” 

Baker Cahill said that creating the image as an animation was intentional: “After Dobbs, and after particularly the Kacsmaryk ruling, I thought, you know, it’s one thing for it to be a static object and symbol, it’s entirely another to have it animated, and to be able to use it as an intervention in these different sites where it would have added resonance. And that’s been a part of my practice from the beginning.”

Since the work can only be seen by downloading Baker Cahill’s app and physically being in front of the Supreme Court or one of the statehouses where she’s placed it, it’s questionable how many people will actually view the work. She explained that that too is intentional. 

“I do think that’s somewhat the beauty of this particular experience. It’s an opt-in experience. But I also feel that that’s the subversive potential of AR, the fact that it’s both invisible and visible, that it occupies this kind of uncontained and uncontainable space here, cultural thoughtspace, feels very important to me. … The medium itself allows artists to be nimble and kind of guerrilla in their tactics,” Baker Cahill said.

“State Property” can currently be seen over statehouses in Boise, Idaho; Lincoln, Nebraska; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Atlanta, Georgia; and the federal courthouse in Austin, Texas. Baker Cahill plans to install more pieces over the next few weeks in Florida, Tennessee, and Missouri. She says the work will remain available on the app indefinitely.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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