UN(RE)SOLVED | A Behind the Scenes Look at the Making of the Award-winning AR Exhibit
26 May 2022
For the past year, the art installation portion of the Un(re)solved initiative has been traveling to cities across the United States. Visit https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/unresolved/installation to learn more and to see if the exhibit is coming to a town near you so you can have the experience yourself.
“Anyone can read about something tragic that happened to somebody, but you automatically become this much closer to them when you have to say their name out loud. They become a much more real person to you; their experience becomes rooted in your own reality.”
Un(re)solved is a major initiative that draws upon more than two years of reporting, thousands of documents and dozens of first-hand interviews. The multiplatform investigation tells the stories of lives cut short, and examines a federal effort to grapple with America’s legacy of racist killings through the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act.
The “Un(re)solved” project is an unprecedented, multiplatform investigation of civil rights era cold case killings that includes a web interactive experience; podcast mini-series; augmented-reality installation that can tour schools, libraries, and museums; a companion educational curriculum; and events.
To lead the creative vision for the interactive and installation, FRONTLINE partnered with Ado Ato Pictures, a premier mixed reality studio founded by artist, filmmaker and technologist Tamara Shogaolu. Shogaolu rooted the visuals of Un(re)solved in the powerful symbolism of trees. “I was really inspired by looking at the role of the tree as a symbol in American history,” Shogaolu said. “It’s been looked at as a symbol of freedom, we look at it as a connector between generations, and also there’s the association of trees with racial terror.” By turning the forests depicted throughout Un(re)solved into beautiful spaces, the artists sought to reclaim them for African Americans and to honor the victims.
Shogaolu was also inspired by the African American tradition of quilting. Among enslaved African Americans forbidden to read or write, quilts provided an important space to document family stories. Today, quilting remains a creative outlet rich with story and tradition. The artwork in Un(re)solved weaves in textures, motifs and patterns to create a quilt that the stories live within.
In the interactive, the stories are brought to life in part through impressionistic animations rooted in archival source materials. Shogaolu says this is a technique she uses in her artwork to help audiences remember that both the people and events in her stories are real. For Un(re)solved, the archival photos are transformed into colorful illustrations, given texture and layered with other imagery. For black and white images when colors were known, the artists tried to fairly represent them.
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FRONTLINE is produced at GBH in Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding is provided by the Abrams Foundation; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Park Foundation; and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation, and additional support from Koo and Patricia Yuen. Support for Un(re)solved is provided by PBS; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Abrams Foundation; the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation; The WNET Group’s Chasing the Dream, a public media initiative that examines poverty, justice, and economic opportunity in America, with major funding by The JPB Foundation and additional funding from The Peter G. Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney Fund; the GBH Catalyst Fund; the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation; the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund; the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center; The Barbra Streisand Foundation and Unity Software, Inc. through its Unity Charitable Fund, a fund of the Tides Foundation.