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To “make reality more real,” artist Asad J. Malik placed hologram images of the Syrian war in a variety of locations across the US. Anyone with a pair of HoloLens can experience his work in a familiar environment: The drowned Syrian boy Alan Kurdi lying on a couch in a building in Bennington college, Vermont; a refugee mom leading her child into an unknown future, outside a departure gate in San Francisco airport.

Malik calls the project Holograms from Syria.  

“I think AR [augmented reality] has some very, very unique powers because VR to me is all about giving up on reality itself. What I’m most interested in is using simulation to bring focus back to the reality,” says Malik.

Malik grew up in Pakistan and moved to the US for college. He’s never experienced war himself. He says his experience of war in the US is very “disconnected and surreal.”

“It’s such a simulation, something that you can scroll over on your news feed along with other information you’re used to consuming, along with ads and live-action television,” says Malik.

He hopes AR will bring alive those images of war that people are getting numb to. He wants the war to feel more immediate, even to those far away.

“A lot of my work was inspired by Martha Rosler,” says Malik. Martha Rosler is an American artist whose art project “Bring The War Home juxtaposed images of the Vietnam War with typical American living rooms. 

Malik says Holograms of Syria is more of a conceptual project because for now, not many people have HoloLens to be able to see the images. But he hopes that as AR technology becomes more accessible, he can create more projects that explore “cultural augmentation.”

“All the projects I’m doing are about taking things that exist in the world and placing them in spaces where people wouldn’t usually see them, almost accelerating this idea of cultural diversity and globalization in ways that are not physically possible.”

Malik says for his next project, he wants to interview people from different background in volumetric 3D, capture that conversation and place them in different parts of the world.

“It’s almost like Pokemon Go, but with real people,” he says.