Monument Public Address System

Monument Public Address System is a multi-platform documentary project centered around a growing collection of audio interviews about the past, present, and future of confederate and colonial monuments in the US.

Meredith Drum is the main artist driving this project. She has been conducting interviews for over a year in collaboration with her graduate assistant Bryce Burrell. They have spoken with a range of community leaders, activists, educators, scholars, students, and other artists who live across the US. The sound of the interviewee’s voice as they tell their story is central to the project. Their narratives are rooted in their experience of the monuments in relation to racism as well as in their research and reflection on the role the monuments play within local, national, and international systems of oppression and injustice. Some of our interviewees have offered personal stories about their feelings of exclusion when they see images related to the confederacy. Others have analyzed this symbolic violence of the monuments in relation to ongoing racist systems. And others describe potential liberatory sculptural works to fill the vacated public spaces in their cities.

Now that the team has a strong base of interviews, they are building platforms, two separate but related media productions, to present the narratives to the public.

The first platform for Monument Public Address System is a place-based augmented reality app, titled MonumentsAR, accessible on participant’s smartphones or tablets. When the participant turns on the app, they will discover 3D virtual objects that, when touched, trigger short sections of the interviews. As the interviews play, the participant can explore the 3D virtual animations that are superimposed on the physical world around them. These AR interactions are geo-located at the sites of existing and recently removed confederate and colonial monuments. Drum is co-creating the AR app with technical assistance from undergraduate students in the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech.

The second is an installation and musical performance, titled Future Monuments, which includes projections on multiple screens and sound distributed across a multi-channel speaker array. The sound, in the form of two scores, has been commissioned specifically for the project. One score is being composed, performed and produced by Grisha Coleman, a well-respected artist of color based in New York City and Phoenix, AZ. The other is being written by Marcus Norris, an emerging Black composer based in Los Angeles and Chicago. Norris’s score will be performed live, in the installation space, by percussionist Annie Stevens and violinist John Irrera and their students in the School of Performing Arts at Virginia Tech. Installation and sound design is being produced by Tanner Upthegrove. Future Monuments will premier in April 2021 in the Moss Art Center’s Cube at Virginia Tech. The Future Monuments team is actively looking for other venues to present the project.

Major funding for MonumentsAR and Future Monuments is being provided by Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology in the form Major and a Minor SEAD grants.

Here is a video of Meredith Drum speaking about the project as part of the ADD+ART International Symposium, hosted by the Universitat de Barcelona in July 2021.

As the AR platform and the installation are still in development here is an in-process Mozilla Hubs site, which includes elements of the project. Look for the spinning compass to link to another room:

Screenshot of the Mozilla Hubs site as part of my Monument Public Address system project

Below I have included some animation stills from design prototypes that were made during the production of the augmented reality app for Monument Public Address System.