On Creating Speculative Monuments for Los Angeles

Over the summer of 2021, Oxy Arts hosted Encoding Futures: Speculative Monuments for L.A., an artist residency where four artists, Nancy Baker Cahill, Audrey Chan, Joel Garcia, and Patrick Martinez, were commissioned to create original, site-specific augmented reality monuments for a future Los Angeles. You can read each of the artists' reflections on their process in this series of articles and learn more about their projects here.

Over the summer of 2021, Los Angeles artists Nancy Baker Cahill, Audrey Chan, Joel Garcia with Meztli Projects, and Patrick Martinez joined Oxy Arts, the community based art center for Occidental College, as artists-in-residence. The prompt for the residency was to research and create augmented reality monuments that would function as blueprints for a site-specific imagined future, with a focus on future technologies that might transform public space.

When we first conceived of this residency in the midst of lockdown in 2020, the details of our world were shifting daily; precarity and an inability to plan far ahead permeated everything. We could not possibly know what future reality these projects would ultimately live in. At the same time, this brought to the forefront the pressing need to invest in imaginative work towards a different reality.

Our intention with the prompt, was to consider how a virtual monument might replace or subvert past future imaginings. The medium of augmented reality, with the 4th Wall app as our platform, allowed for artists to take up space without the cost and waste of building materials or the intrusive presence that monuments historically occupy in public space. We envisioned Oxy Arts as a supportive interlocutor—providing resources, research and tech expertise, but yielding creative autonomy to the artists to reckon with their unique role and responsibility in imagining the future of their city. We were interested in addressing whose blueprints for the future are brought to fruition, and whose imaginaries of futurity are realized.

Joel Garcia. Photo By Ian Byers Gamber
Joel Garcia testing his augmented reality artwork at the site of the toppled Junipero Serra statue. Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber. Image courtesy of OXY ARTS.

The artists in this incredible cohort have diverse practices, but share a commitment to community-centered work—with practices that interrogate structures of power and are in dialogue around issues of equity, justice and antiracism. The artists were invited to choose any site in Los Angeles, and to consider how past and present social, economic, and cultural inequities, power imbalances, and other forms of subjection might operate in that space. The prompt encouraged artists to imagine a radically equitable future sited in an emergent present; and in the process to consider if and how new forms can reckon with the way monuments have historically functioned as agents of oppression.

We are thrilled to have launched these monuments in Los Angeles this fall. Each artist has approached the prompt with nuanced insight, and their works both answer and pose questions that expand on the ongoing conversation about what monuments can be. We hope that these virtual blueprints will contribute to this critical and ongoing examination of our collective responsibility for the future. 

Patrick Martinez   Homegrown. Photo By Frankie Fleming. Image Courtesy Of Oxy Arts
Patrick Martinez’s original augmented reality monument, Homegrown. 2021. Image courtesy of OXY ARTS.

You can read more about each artists’ process throughout the residency in the following series, and can view their projects here, or in person in Los Angeles.

Encoding Futures Map   One Page
Map of Encoding Futures: Speculative Monuments for L.A. Courtesy of OXY ARTS.

The AR monuments are presented in conjunction with Encoding Futures: Critical Imaginaries of AI exhibition at Oxy Arts, on view in person from September 16 - November 19 or online here.

Oxy Arts

Oxy Arts is a vital public space bringing together the campus community, the Northeast Los Angeles community, and local and regional artists in socially conscious dialogue and engagement.