No Add App Takes Art Literally Underground

After attending the phenomenal David Bowie exhibit at the Chicago MCA last week, I’m finding myself acutely aware of how much I miss regular access to art. As a college student studying music, and even as a high schooler fortunate enough to attend fantastic humanities classes, every day had some form of exposure to artistic endeavors. But once out of school, if we want to experience art, we have to seek it out. While we have plenty of access to media, one could argue that art is a bit tougher to come by. Of course, there are galleries to visit, which is wonderful and needs to be preserved, but unlike school, art no longer comes to you.

A few artists have come together to try to change all that. They took two things New Yorkers have encounters with daily: technology and advertisements, and created an innovative augmented reality art space...the NY subway station.

Here’s how it works: three artist groups, The Heavy Projects, Public Ad Campaign, and Subway Art Blog have joined forces in a group they call Re+Public to create an app that turns ordinary subway ads into a gallery showing. The app, called No Add, is available for both Apple and Android and uses your device’s camera to render the ubiquitous rectangular New York subway poster ads into unique pieces of visual art. Simply download the app, hit start, and aim your device at the ads. Each ad has it’s own corresponding work of art, and new ads are being updated and paired with artists regularly. If you want to see what it looks like, there’s a video on the Re+Public site. Even though I don’t live in New York, I was able to try it out with a demo page, and the result is really fun.

No Add challenges the kind of advertising imagery we are exposed to daily, and gives you an alternative worldview. While it’s made for handheld devices now, it forces you to think how media will be consumed in the coming age of wearable technology. Like the Facebook app that changed all the baby pictures in your feed to shots of kitty cats, it’s easy to imagine a world where we are able to block out unwanted images and replace them with those we do. What will that mean for the print ad? What new means will ad agencies need to use to get and keep our attention? These are the kinds of questions that enter your mind when viewing the world through the screen of No Add.

Although the No Add app currently is focused in NYC, The Heavy Projects has done augmented media installations in Perth, Los Angeles, the SXSW festival, and other cities, so the hope is that it will expand soon to your ad space. In the meantime, if you find yourself visiting the big apple, take the subway; in augmented reality, you’re visiting a modern art show.