You put the AR headset on. It feels lighter than you expected, almost like a toy. You wonder for a second if it’s going to work at all. You fit the sensor gloves over your fingers and step on to the pad that will allow you to really walk as you use this month’s cultural credit, granted to you by corporate dormitory where you live.

 

Welcome to the premier museum and gallery experience
brought to you by ARTSAF™

 

 

You could have chosen salsa lessons, like your friend Marta did. She said it was pretty sexy, but the instructor’s accent sounded fake. “I don’t think they’d let a Mexican make that program, right? He had to be Spanish. But I was so distracted by it that I couldn’t focus.”

 

You told her you’d steer clear. You heard good things about the hike in the alps with the folk singers. And you loved the idea of the Indian temple visit. But Erik did that one and reported back, and you knew you wouldn’t.

 

“Everything was censored,” Erik said as you slid your tray along the company cafeteria counter.

 

“You mean like the sexy bas reliefs?” You missed bananas. You haven’t had once since you were a child.

 

“No, I mean everything,” he said with a huff. “The faces of the gods. The Sanskrit on the walls. They even distorted the chanting so that you couldn’t get the words or the rhythm.”

 

“Why even go?” You two found a bench to sit on. You ate. He didn’t.

 

“I just… I’m so sick of being stuck here. I wanted something different.”

 

“Transfer to Houston,” you said, the drought-besieged city like dust on your tongue.

 

“I said different,” Erik muttered. “Not just worse.”

 

 

Remembering the smooth sweetness of bananas as your father sliced them on to your peanut butter toast. Remembering the flight to Buenos Aires when you were still small. Remembering the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes there, crumbling plaster beside centuries-old paintings. Remembering your mother, her hand at her throat, taking it all in. An old woman crying on the bench in front of a painting of lilies. Remember that woman’s face, not the lilies. Consider her. What was she feeling?

 

You chose this.

 

 

Here at ARTSAF™, we have worked tirelessly over the last few turbulent years to bring you the ultimate gallery experience, wherever you are. Powered by our proprietary augmented reality programs, ARTSAF can take you through the Louvre in Paris and the Petra archaeological site in Jordan on the same day without any jetlag. The world of art is at your fingertips!

 

It’s odd that they’re still calling it Jordan, you think. It has some other name now under Chinese occupation. You just don’t know what it is.

 

 

Following the U.S. federal ban on public gatherings in 2022 and the increase in E.U. legislation restricting freedom of movement, many museums in the western world saw their attendance numbers plummet. With their doors chained shut and riots in major cities threatening treasures ancient and new, we nearly lost our ability to view our own precious cultural heritage, to connect with it and commune with it.

 

You remember life before the law. You went to the fair to play games and eat corndogs. You remember the way people used to shoulder past you, both of you bouncing a bit, harmless, your trajectory in the world just a little changed. You remember the epidemics that put distance between you and the world, masks and gloves and shields on the street.

 

 

Through an exclusive contract with the world’s premier secure internet providers, ARTSAF is able to bring you into spaces that have been closed to the public since 2020. For example, the sections of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art that remain standing are all available in the ARTSAF Live program. ARTSAF Archived can provide viewers with the experience of the destroyed sections, taken from scans created in 2019. Past, present, and future blend seamlessly with your walking tour experience.

 

You wonder if the scans from 2019 will include the funny clothes people wore then. The hats with their political parties, or the shirts that said things like KILL COPS. Surely the program will edit that out.

 

 

Museums are just the beginning! ARTSAF Live can bring you the nostalgia and hip atmosphere of a gallery party in SoHo, San Francisco, or Salt Lake City. Partner galleries on three continents are available to you in your own time zone whenever you wish. Simply select from one of our curated programs and you can attend talks with the artists, sip wine with renowned critics, or take in a lecture from a premier art vendor.

 

Art sales are a small part of what ARTSAF can offer, but if you’re interested in obtaining a physical work, our programming can facilitate that as well. Simply signal within the simulation by raising two fingers and a seller will be right with you.

 

 

You picture the daily mail cart dropping off a painting for you. Guernica, shoved between your bunk and the wall, the eye always on you. You think of the winged Nike in your narrow bed with you, always cold. You think of the debts you will never pay off, the rent you owe to sleep in a pod instead of the streets. Remember, raise two fingers if you want to buy the art.

 

 

ARTSAF is particularly proud of our enriched crowd density programming. Whether you want to experience the low murmur of an opening night crowd or the breezy openness of a weekday afternoon, ARTSAF Live offers multiple settings for all the thrill of company but none of the drawbacks. You can even experience a gallery bar or a museum café without the overwhelming scents, sounds like crying children, or the threat of violence from riots or bombing.

 

Most ARTSAF users are familiar with these settings and options from their use of similar programs for the attendance of virtual concerts, digital meetings, or virtual reality social events.

 

However, ARTSAF offers a truly premium experience that may surprise even the veteran augmented reality user. Heads-up display didactics and high-quality renderings make it possible to know works of art with an intimacy that was never possible in a physical space. No museum in the old world would allow a traveler to inspect a painting from millimeters away, or to run their hands over the surface of a sculpture. ARTSAF Live is programmed to engage every one of your senses.

 

 

You went to a virtual concert once. It ended when three demonstrators crashed the server, broadcasting some illegal song by the Dead Kennedys. Nobody goes to those anymore. There isn’t a point, if there ever was one.

 

 

Of course, this ability would be meaningless without the ability to filter out the input you don’t want to receive. ARTSAF Live allows for deletion of scent information, sound, or other company entirely. It puts the control over lighting and even the layout of the room in your hands. With ARTSAF Live, an art lover need never accept a work of art on its own terms, or be dictated to by artists, docents, curators, or tour guides in how they should receive a work of art. With ARTSAF Live, the user is free and always comfortable.

 

For those who prefer a more analog experience, ARTSAF Archived offers a window into the past. Using this program, you are able to experience galleries and art spaces from all over the world as they once were. Although these compound 3D images were generated from a specific point in time, the user still controls the experience and has a great deal of freedom. In both ARTSAF Live and ARTSAF Archived, user preferences can be set before a destination is chosen. Any disagreeable content can be excised from your experience with just a few clicks. Many users prefer to eliminate categories such as nudes, blasphemous or seditious pieces, gore, or messages that oppose their political sensibilities. Note: users in the United States will find that many of these choices are set by default and cannot be changed under U.S. law pursuant to the 36th Amendment. Users in the European Union are not able to view any content depicting Nazism, white supremacy, or Islamic art, pursuant to E.U. resolution 849.b. Please check local statutes to ensure that your use of ARTSAF is legal.

 

 

You set your tolerances as wide as U.S. law will allow you. You queue up ten galleries and a hundred museums in cities you’ll never see. You crank the dial to that it’s always opening night, the corridors are filled with people. You want to float by every tour and catch a glimpse of every artist. You want to watch the faces of children’s school groups and nuns as they see the art. Are their feelings contained in the echo?

 

You want to experience art. The real thing. The way it was.

 

You just also want to be safe.

ARTSAF™ / by  MEG ELISON © / 2020