Too many women are invisible in Munich: women who have achieved so much in their lives but are still not appreciated in the city squares. This is what the students of the University of Film and Television and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich think. Only about five percent of all statues in public places are female. That’s why the student initiative “denkFEmale” wants to bring a digital women’s monument to the city. To do this, the group is developing an app that can be used to scan a QR code on the ground. Then the interactive statue appears in front of you in augmented reality. The idea appeared in the winter semester at the cooperation symposium “Developing Media Systems: Immersive Arts” at the two universities. However, the group continued to operate and has now developed a prototype with women’s rights activist Anita Augsburg (1857-1943). Lukas Marz, 27, and Amadea Bailey, 25, talk about an idea that is now much more than an original university symposium – and about the obstacles art faces in public spaces in Munich.
s. Z: Munich’s cityscape is shaped by men. So why just design female digital effects that don’t really exist?
Luke Marsh: Statues do not really exist on purpose. This is exactly the problem. We give a statue to the faces who were not given a souvenir in their time – and thus remained invisible. At the beginning of the project, we only looked at the invisible things that can be made visible using digital technology. Then we came to the conclusion that almost all female characters from history are not visible in Munich.
Amadea Bailey: You can see that the cityscape with our digital women’s monuments is the perfect case. Our project is definitely a statement.
But the QR code on the floor isn’t exactly the best way to increase the visibility of women in Munich.
Luke Marsh: The artwork should also start a discussion. For us, it’s not about instantly changing the cityscape – it’s more about starting a discussion about how to change the cityscape. Munich’s cityscape is shaped by a society that no longer corresponds to today’s society.
You are now in the final round of the Digital Bavaria Prize, which will be presented for the first time this Thursday by Digital Minister Judith Gerlach. But how much approval does the project find among city council officials, whose approval you absolutely need to implement?
Luke Marsh: By itself, our project was very well received. Catherine Habenschaden, for example, has already offered to sponsor the project. And everyone in the cultural department, to whom we introduced the project, said it was great at first. But we soon noticed that the desire to actually change the city’s landscape is not so great in city politics. And if only through a footprint on the ground. Once it comes to QR codes in public places, people are even more careful: getting that through the city council at all is very difficult. In fact, there is no money for that either. The debate about art in public has stalled anyway. We didn’t fully understand it.
Amadea Bailey: Everyone in the municipality is excited, but so far no one has taken the initiative to take full responsibility. It would be nice if the QR codes were permanent and set on the ground like a stone.
The viewer should also be able to interact with your figurines. what does that mean?
Amadea Bailey: The statue is developed in augmented reality. This means that you see the shape as if it were in space – and you can walk around it, get close to it, and look at it from different points of view. We also built audio elements. With our prototype Anita Augspurg, you can hear quotes from her life.
Luke Marsh: You can walk around the prototype – and depending on where you are, a different quote pops up to read and listen to. It is also possible: that the statues move, or follow the viewer’s view, or the disappearance of the statues or parts of them.
So you are concerned with a relationship between the viewer and the statue.
Amadea Bailey: Exactly, this is the great thing about augmented reality technology, because it allows you to develop a sense of belonging. Everything feels so real, so you can put yourself in the person’s shoes quite well.
How do you approach each statue creatively?
Amadea Bailey: We pictured Anita Augsburg without a base. This was important to us because it is more modern nowadays to depict statues without a pedestal – because otherwise the person is artificially emphasized. We want to put women on the same level as the viewer.
Luke Marsh: And in her hand is a legal blogger who studied law in Switzerland. The statue looks very confident in itself, and she has her hands raised.
Amadea Bailey: We also placed it across from the Prince Regent Luitpold, whose monument is also in front of the Bavarian National Museum. Because when Anita Augsburg wanted to study law at that time, he was the one under whose legislation women were not allowed to enter university. Until 1903 women were not allowed to study by decree. And Anita Augsburg had her studio in the immediate vicinity of his residence. This is how we want to portray the conflict between the two characters.
In your promo video, you can see how poorly detailed the Anita Augspurg statue is. Unlike historical statues, this is not a lifelike depiction.
Luke Marsh: Together with the Academy of Arts, we decided to leave Anita Augspurg relatively raw in its digital form. The question is how far people should be raised to statues these days. This is why we played with this abstraction, leaving Anita Augsberg raw and digital – thus showing once again that this is something temporary and digital, something indefinite. Because once you take down the cell phone through which you looked at the statue, you can no longer see it.
And when can people from Munich download the app?
Amadea Bailey: We are currently waiting for confirmation that we can participate in Summer in the City. In this framework, we can temporarily create a few statues. So if all goes well, we will put up some digital sculptures in Munich at the beginning of August. And maybe by then we will continue to create the art app for the job that you can take pictures of with digital memorials of women. A portrait, so to speak, with a statue that does not already exist.