Monument Public Address System

Monument Public Address System (2020-ongoing) 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.

The first platform for Monument Public Address System AR is a place-based augmented reality app accessible on participant’s smartphones or tablets. The second platform is an installation and musical performance, titled Monuments Dissected: Engaging Public Art and Contested Spaces. To learn more about the installation, please visit this page.

In terms of the augmented reality app, 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. You can see documentation of the app on this page.

Meredith Drum is the main artist driving Monument Public Address System; she is a white woman. Since the project interrogates the history of race in the U.S., Drum will include information about how each participant self-identifies in terms of race and ethnicity. She recognizes that racial and ethnic categories are not neutral and are rather fraught with problems but she still thinks it is useful to bring the participants’ identities to the forefront as part of this project.

Drum has been conducting interviews for over a year in collaboration with her graduate assistant Bryce Burrell, who is a young Native American and Black artist. They have spoken with a range of community leaders, activists, educators, scholars, students, and other artists who live across the US. The interviewees who the team have met thus far have self-identify as Black, white, Asian, Korean-American, Cambodian-American, Italian-American, and mixed-race. 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 the 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, the AR app and the installation, in order to present the narratives to the public.

Major funding for Monument Public Address System is being provided by Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology in the form a Major and a Minor SEAD grant. The Center for Human and Computer Interaction also provided funding.

Here is a video about the AR app showing how it works with documentation at a monument in Virginia.

Below I have included a few images of the app in action as well as some animation stills from design prototypes that were made during the production of the AR app.

As we were building the AR app and the installation, we started this 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