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  • Gill Gatfield

Radical Monuments : AI–IA : Aura & Intelligence in Augmented Reality – Gill Gatfield

Updated: May 1

My residency research investigates real and imagined AI-infused augmented reality (AR) monuments IRL as tools for radical consciousness and agency in the public realm. In this study, agency is viewed as a complex entity shaped and enabled by computation, logic, transcendental psychology – components of Computational Kantianism (Wolfendale), and viewed through a feminist lens. The research aims to investigate the potential transference of intelligence between subjects (both human and conceptual) and objects/experiences (the AI-AR monument) to explore 'that which thinks' and 'what is reasonable to believe'. Intelligence is conceptualized as an evolving complex system encompassing all sentient beings, human and non-human, individual/collective, human/machine, and with regard to systemic biases in these and other methodologies. This study focuses on the AI digital monument's capacity to cultivate and express aura and collective intelligence as an Intelligent Agent (IA), with reflections on its impact in diverse, dynamic, and democratic public space.

Monument Archetype

Monuments serve as central elements in this research, functioning as models, structures, and metaphors. In physical manifestations, they project presence, images, and ideas into institutional, community, and public spaces, shaping and being shaped by social, cultural, economic, and political exigencies. Whether relics, totems, statues, or architecture, monuments are ubiquitous yet uniquely prescribed by and for each situation. They are utilized to revere, replicate, convey knowledge, manifest intelligence, or promote uniformity within creative and communal contexts. As art-objects, their transparency, opacity, relevance, and redundancy become more pronounced in augmented realities, challenging conventional notions of object permanence, presence, autonomy, consciousness, and agency.

In Absentia

My AR sculpture In Absentia is envisioned with enhanced AI components for this project. This digital artwork encodes and critiques the problematic histories and potential futures of monument archetypes. Activated through mobile computing and device cameras, twin glass text-figure-symbols stand on a codified Pentelic marble Ionic column base, appearing in real-time 3D. The 'physical' elements project the hallmarks of the monument trope, in the language of abstraction, while the AI-AR manifestation dissolves presence and shifts the loci of aura. Through public activations and observations of In Absentia, my research explores perceptions of aura and intelligence in the ephemeral realm of AR and how these perceptions might be transmitted to an amplified AI monument.


The Aura Equation


Focus on aura in the AI-AR monument allows for reflections on the connections between people and the monument, its images, and ideas. These links relate to the digital object's formal qualities (medium, (im)materiality, form, scale and symbols), relational qualities, sensory resonance, emotive conveyance, and notions of authenticity, plausibility, safety, and trust. Since Walter Benjamin's 1936 conceptualisation, the aura of an artwork has been defined in relation to its unique existence and presence in time and place, a quality not reproducible through mechanical means. The infinitely reproducible AI-AR artwork in the physical-digital realm introduces complexities in experiencing presence in real-world conditions. My research examines the aura equation of future AI-AR monument constructs.

Intelligent Agent: AI–IA Monument


For this research, the AI monument is conceptualized as an Intelligent Agent (IA), an autonomous entity that observes, learns, and acts to achieve specific goals through interactions with humans and environments. Utilizing natural language processing and machine learning, the IA performs tasks such as data analysis, decision-making, problem-solving, and automation. Sensors and imaging via mobile devices and wearable technology, would allow an AI-IA monument to collect and extrapolate body-mind-emotion information and ecological context, transforming this data into collective enhancements that continuously shape the AR art experience. Empowered by quantum technologies, the AI-IA monument will not only mirror the desires and demands of individuals or audiences but also generate real-time intelligence. In this formulation, the object/experience itself can determine and direct the human-subject's consciousness and agency.

Shaping the Radical Monument


The mass uptake and utilization of intelligence through the AR object/experience by the generative AI-IA monument would reshape intelligence itself. My project conceptualises this entity as a radical monument, a complex being and agent in the public realm. Speculations about its civic deployment raise key philosophical and ethical questions relating to design and purpose of a mega-monument with scope as a liberating force and a tool of oppression. In utopian scenarios, this monument might foster unique individual experiences, reflect evolving diversity, promote knowledge, and stimulate democratic engagement in the public domain. Dystopian visions might depict the monument facilitating propaganda, promoting exclusion, cementing division, and inciting violence. Intermediate scenarios are conceivable where the AI-IA monument mediates, resolves or dilutes differences, reflects stasis, or sustains a passive body politic. Reflections on the potentialities of the radical monument raise pivotal questions about what and who will benefit from its manifestations, and whether it will serve one, some, many, or all beings.


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