We’ve been waiting a long time for technology to deliver us an alternative reality, like the future in H.G. Wells’s “Time Machine,” Nemo’s Matrix, or the universe of code navigated by the “Neuromancer” hacker, Case. The future has arrived, finally — by the prosaic hand of our cellphones. Chances are it will soon be sponsored by laundry detergent or a fast-food chain.
Just the other day, my iPhone showed me an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art that most people around me didn’t know was there. Looking at the galleries through the phone’s camera, I saw a chunk of the Berlin Wall floating before me. There were faces suspended in midair in the museum’s immense atrium. Over the sculpture garden hovered a path through the desert along which illegal immigrants often die.
Other than being the venue, MoMA had nothing to do with the show. The organizers, artists Mark Skwarek from New York and Sander Veenhof from the Netherlands, used a smartphone application called Layar and uploaded the work to be seen at the MoMA galleries’ particular set of coordinates in space. It’s still “there.”