Augmented Reality Monolith At Ancient English Site Confuses UK Press

As the global fad continues, low-grade reflective monoliths have been discovered in the UK at Dartmoor, the Isle of Wight and Glastonbury Tor. The latest report grabbed by the tabloids is that Britain’s fourth monolith has been found at the Merry Maidens stone circle in Cornwall. However, unlike some coverage suggests, this monolith doesn’t and never did exist. Not physically anyway.

The error reported in some UK tabloids seems to have been prompted by a report by Cornwall Live , of a trial ‘augmented reality’ (AR) version of the monolith that has just been made available by scanning a QR code left at the center of the ancient site.

The non-existent AR monolith in question is in reality the creation of PLAN8.AR.

This latest monolith installation was reported ‘discovered’ by Luke Brown of Plan8 at the center of the Merry Maidens stone circle on Friday 11 December. In fact, he and the Plan8 team have installed it there in a virtual manner by creating an AR Facebook App and by placing the QR scanner code at the site.

Luke says:

‘Here at plan8 VR we became interested in the monolith story from the very start…We had the idea to build our own monolith as a way of showcasing some of the skills and ideas that we have here at Plan8.’

Although the app is not yet approved by Facebook, if it is, we could all soon be able to see what they call the ‘Merry Monolith’ if they visit the site and scan the code.

Space Junk from Earth

Having been found in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain California, Romania and several locations in the United Kingdom, the mysterious appearance of the monoliths is quickening, as if their mysterious message is becoming increasingly urgent. But the reality is far more mundane. According to The Guardian , the public are now so “jaded by art pranks and sci-fi clichés” that the monoliths are being viewed as “just another tedious prank.” And the danger is that they will start to actually cause some irreparable damage.

Luke Brown writes on the Plan8 website:

“We saw early on that the monoliths, while being applauded by most people, had the issue of being destructive when erected on sites of natural beauty. We thought it would be good to come up with a non-destructive solution for our monolith’s construction. Through using 3d modelling and augmented reality we were able to do this without causing any damage ancient, protected site.”

The tallest standing stone at Merry Maidens stone circle was 1.4 meters (4.6 ft) tall. Measuring approximately 24 meters (78.7 ft) in diameter, the stone circle was erected in the Neolithic-early Bronze Age (approx. 2500-1500 BC). Locally, the stone circle features in myths as having been created by nineteen maidens who were turned into stone as punishment for dancing on a Sunday.

Now, if the AR app is used successfully, the 2.5 meter (8.2 ft) non-invasive monolith towers above the stone circle. But unlike other installations, at the tap of a finger, this one disappears without trace.

The recent craze of dumping fake metal monoliths at different ancient sites around the world has now reached the Merry Maidens stone circle in Cornwall. (Sasa Kadrijevic / Adobe Stock)

The recent craze of dumping fake metal monoliths at different ancient sites around the world has now reached the Merry Maidens stone circle in Cornwall. ( Sasa Kadrijevic / Adobe Stock)

This Isn’t Art, It’s Fly Tipping

For the more easily led, the  discovery of the first monolith  in Utah on 18 November was the first in a series of monolithic appearances viewed as being part of some long awaited “first contact,” even though they were shabbily mounted and made of cheap materials. The National Trust said the object that appeared on its land on the Isle of Wight was “secured on a wooden plinth” and was made from “mirrored sections of plastic or Perspex material.”

The Guardian says, in “another banal twist” an organization called The Most Famous Artist claims authorship of the columns in Utah and California. And in what is not a very “spiritual” move, the organization offers corporations the opportunity to “connect your brand with consumers through culture,” offering the public replica monoliths for $45,000 (£34,000).

Officials walking away from the bizarre metal monolith discovered in Utah. (Utah Department of Public Safety)

Officials walking away from the bizarre metal monolith discovered in Utah. ( Utah Department of Public Safety )

Flicking a Finger to “Real” Landscape Artists

Defacing landscapes and drilling into a protected reserves negates any artistic merit that might be claimed by the producers of the monoliths. What’s more, every one of the UK plastic horrors is a direct middle finger in the face of “real” landscape artists, like for example Andy Goldsworthy OBE. This famous British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist produces site-specific sculptures and land art situated in natural and urban settings, using only natural materials to convey the passage of time.

According to an article on D-site, Andy Goldsworthy processes “raw materials” in the literal sense of the word, meaning “materials as they are found in nature.” The reason he creates artworks with natural materials is because this is the way it was for humans in prehistoric times, “the starting point of human production as such,” according to Goldsworthy. In comparison, these cheap plastic monoliths use poisonous materials that take thousands of years to degrade.

Kitsch Parodies of Modernist Sculpture

If we were to look for a category to throw these monoliths into, it would have to be beside “ crop circle s” in the loony bin. According to Smithsonian, when Doug Bower and his co-conspirator Dave Chorley first made a “ flying saucer nest” in a wheat field in Wiltshire, England, in 1976, “they attracted a gaggle of self-appointed experts.” Mystical and magical thinking, scientific and pseudo-scientific research, conspiracy theories and general pandemonium broke out and crappy television shows threaded in lost codes, the pre-Columbian Mayan calendar and the flop Armageddon date in December 2012.

The Guardian sums up this willful destruction of a Neolithic monument in England perfectly in saying that this recent global proliferation of cheap monoliths “is ingenious but as art they are derivative, even kitsch parodies of modernist sculpture.”

Top image: Image of the AR metal monolith discovered in the center of Merry Maidens stone circle in Cornwall.    Source: Luke Brown / Plan8.AR

By Ashley Cowie

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