Nancy Baker Cahill’s CENTO consists of a monumental augmented reality “creature” hovering over the Floor 8 terrace of the Whitney Museum, and an accompanying video imagining the creature’s cave-like habitat. The video flies through the three environments of the habitat—the nest, the refueling chamber, and the space where the creature metabolizes its fuel into energy and takes flight. The end of the video includes instructions for downloading a free augmented reality (AR) app that allows users to place feathers on the creature’s body and witness its evolution on their smartphones or tablets from the Whitney Museum’s terraces. Viewers unable to visit the Museum can follow CENTO’s development at the bottom of this page.
CENTO is a fictitious, futuristic, bio-engineered interspecies entity collectively transformed through participatory AR. It has a serpentine body lined with scales and mycelium (the filaments that form the vegetative part of a fungus), limbs like a cephalopod (the marine animals whose heads directly connect to arms), a manta ray wing, and colorful feathers. Each of the twelve feathers you can choose in the app and add to CENTO’s body is associated with a different functionality related to the creature’s evolutionary survival, such as communication, navigation, energy conversion, or memory bank.
CENTO points to the necessity of co-existence and intersection of beings in the face of the climate crisis. It positions different species as one interconnected body and draws attention to the care and cooperation needed to ensure the survival of life forms under changing conditions. The work asks whether a creature imagined as a collage of human, cephalopod, microbiome, avian, mycelial, marine, and machine could fulfill or even exceed basic evolutionary requirements. CENTO takes its name from the term for a collage poem consisting of lines from other poets’ works, alluding both to the collage body of the creature and the audience’s contributions to the work.
AR production: Shaking Earth Digital
Sound by Caleb Craig
Experience CENTO at the Whitney Museum:
You can view and interact with CENTO in person on the Whitney Museum’s terraces, with Floor 8 as the prime viewing point and Floors 5 and 6 providing different angles. Use the QR code on the terrace signage to download the free 4th Wall AR app to select a feather to add to the creature.
Experience CENTO from locations worldwide:
Download the free 4th Wall AR app through the instructions at the end of the video accessible from this page to select a feather and add it to the creature.