Augmented Art, Virtual Vandalism

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Artist Jeff Koons partnered with Snapchat to release an augmented reality (AR) platform that allows users to see AR versions of some of Koons’s most famous sculptures by using their smartphones. The day after the project was launched, artist Sebastian Errazuriz vandalized “Balloon Dog” by creating an AR sculpture that was identical to Koons’s AR sculpture but covered with graffiti. When analyzed from a semiotic standpoint based on the work of Ferdinand de Saussure, the AR versions of Koons’s sculptures can be interpreted as creating a visual signifying system that is disrupted by Errazuriz’s intervention. Errazuriz’s “Vandalized Balloon Dog” reveals the potentially tenuous link between the sign and the signifier when applied to AR artworks and highlights the contested nature of public space as a site for viewing AR art. Just as Koons’s sculptures complicate questions of originality, Errazuriz’s work problematizes claims regarding the original AR work. The application of semiotics and an engagement with the history of conceptual art results in the development of a new understanding of the ethical and theoretical implications of the use of public space for AR art.