Snapchat paired up with the artist Jeff Koons to place an augmented reality version of his famous Balloon Dog sculpture in New York's Central Park – but in a "stance against an imminent AR corporate invasion", the work has been graffitied by artist Sebastian Errazuriz.
Messaging app Snapchat created digital versions of a number of Koons' sculptures this week, and geotagged them to allow smartphone users to superimpose the artworks over settings around the world, from London's Hyde Park to New York's Central Park and Sydney's Opera House.
A day after the launch, New York-based Errazuriz and his team at CrossLab studio installed their own graffiti-covered version of the artwork at the same coordinates in an "overnight protest".
"It's important to have this dialogue before our public AR virtual space is entirely dominated by brands," Errazuriz told Dezeen.
"More than protesting any potential artistic value that Balloon Dog might or might not have, I believe that this first geo-tagged AR 'sculpture' represents a technological and social milestone."
"The first step of a future invasion of corporate 3D imagery designed to keep us entertained, dumbfounded and captive for a wave of new smart and subtle advertisements," he continued.
"I believe that it is therefore vital to open up a dialogue and start questioning now how much of our virtual public space we are willing to give to companies."
Errazuriz said the growth of augmented reality – facilitated by the growth in devices compatible with the technology, like the new iPhone 8 – would soon see corporations increasingly encroaching on public space.
A similar debate around the use of public space by companies arose around the launch of the augmented reality video game Pokémon GO last year.
"Right now it all seems relatively innocent, Snapchat and other tech corporations are offering us 'free' services that we voluntarily join," said the artist.
"They give us shiny new tech entertainments for us to enjoy and share. Nevertheless, with time, the boundaries between reality and virtual reality will fade," he continued. "The virtual world, where the majority of our social interactions take place, will become our reality."
"Once we begin experiencing the world predominantly through augmented reality, our public space will already be dominated by corporate content designed to subconsciously manipulate and control us."
Errazuriz tried to submit the vandalised version of the Ballon Dog to Snapchat, but when he heard nothing back, he created his own independent app called ARNYC.
The free app allows visitors to see both the Koons x Snapchat collaboration and Errazuriz's graffitied version of the artwork on their phones at the same location.
"We hope this symbolic act provides a starting point to invite people to think and discuss the future of our common digital public space and how much of that space we want to give away to corporate advertising," said Errazuriz.