what if im the bad guy


"what if im the bad guy" is an experimental augmented reality documentary based on the stories of three US soldiers in Afghanistan and three unarmed civilians they shot and killed in early 2010. The title comes from a tattoo on the back of a whistleblower soldier, exposed in photographs documenting a beating he received for threatening to report an incident to superiors.

The piece uses Palimpsest, an open-source framework for AR narratives, and iPad 2 hardware to embed visitors into an open-air museum and memorial filled with slowly rotating narrative fragments. The visitor can touch these fragments to discover pieces of the story, and can realign them into different configurations, sorting them chronologically or by thematic connections. Scattered through the air above the field are fractured portraits of the accused soldiers, which become whole only when the visitor finds the right perspective from which they appear to re-align, and memorials to the dead civilians, stylized externally as frozen, chaotic explosions but transforming into tranquil spaces of silence when stepped inside.

"bad guy" was first exhibited in spring 2011 as part of a set of pieces about the Maywand district killings, presented at the author's MFA thesis exhibition in Digital Arts & New Media at UC Santa Cruz, where it won the jury award for Best in Show. Other pieces in the series have been seen at the PAX East game convention in Boston and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. It was supported in part by the Florence French Financial Aid Fund for Art.


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Aaron Reed DANM MFA Thesis documentation rough cut from Aaron Reed on Vimeo.



Aaron A. Reed


Michael Mateas, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, D. Fox Harrell

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Posted: Feb.02.2012