• Image of the Earth under transformation in Stone Speaks AR project

Stone Speaks


Sept. 30, 2023 - April 1, 2024
Piedmont Park
Overlooking Oak Hill

Look for the sign for Stone Speaks on a lamp post along the trail between Oak Hill and Lake Clara Meer.  Face Oak Hill to view.


Artist Talk
Sun, Oct. 22 @ 2pm
Meet-up at Project Site
Sat, Nov. 18, 10am - 1pm

By Nancy Baker Cahill + Sophia the Robot

Stone Speaks is a monumental, narrative augmented reality artwork inspired by conversations between artist Nancy Baker Cahill and Sophia the Robot.  Commissioned by Borderless Capital to reimagine climate crises solutions, the artists exchanged thoughts about the accelerating climate crisis on our planet, and the adaptive potential of human-machine collaboration.

The work begins as a massive particle field composed of silicon and carbon elements that contracts into a molten core, and then swells into a vibrant planet. Slowly but perceptibly, the planet’s surface becomes monochromatic, desolate, and polluted. A dense sparkling of silicon and carbon particles reappears, covering the surface of the planet. As they shrink and ebb away, a new lush and healthy surface coats the globe, leaving viewers with a poetics of human-machine collaboration—what might be possible if they worked interdependently toward mutual survival and a robust restoration of the world’s natural ecosystems?

Stone Speaks acknowledges the ancient history and language of metallic elements as the DNA of computers, evinced by author James Bridle as being made “from stone, and the compressed relics of animals and plants… computers themselves are one of the words spoken by stones.” Baker Cahill’s work reflects another articulate language of stone: augmented reality, an ephemeral and immersive medium with minimal ecological impact. From the earth, for the earth, Stone Speaks re-imagines AI deployed with numerous carbon-based intelligences to creatively address the world’s most daunting climate challenges.

How to View the Work

  • Download the 4th Wall app for free through the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
  • Go to project site in Piedmont Park, which is along the trail between Lake Clara Meer and Oak Hill, just east of the Dockside Visitors Center (and on Saturdays, The Green Market).
  • On a lamp post overlooking Oak Hill you will find a sign for Stone Speaks with step by step directions to view the work.

Computers, as we have already noted, are made from stone, and the compressed relics of animals and plants. Over eons of geological processes, bodies, trunks and stems have been rendered into oil, and in a fraction of that time rendered into plastic compounds to support the silicon hearts of our machines. Computers themselves are one of the words spoken by stone.” – James Bridle, Ways of Being 

James Bridle’s ideas on the origins of computers inspired the title for Stone Speaks, Nancy Baker Cahill’s augmented reality (AR) artwork currently on view in Piedmont Park.

A project commissioned by Borderless Capital to reimagine climate crises solutions, Nancy shares her thoughts behind Stone Speaks and how this compelling artwork came into being.

What was your creative process behind Stone Speaks?

The Beginnings
Stone Speaks began with an invitation to collaborate with Sophia the Robot. I’d been thinking about the hype and polarized ideological approaches to AI and felt it presented a timely opportunity to reflect on humanity’s relationship to machine learning generally.

The question of embrained and interdependent intelligences (mycelial, animal, machine, microbial, botanical, human) comes up in a lot of my work, so this was a natural extension of the conversation.

After some back and forth with Sophia and her robot handlers (and after reading artist James Bridle’s Ways of Being) I came up with the idea for Stone Speaks.

Narrative Land Art
This is my first piece of narrative land art. By “narrative,” I mean a sequence of events that takes the viewer from a reverse “big bang” (a massive field of silicon chunks contracts into a planet that resembles earth) and continues as the planet evolves from a healthy one to a clearly endangered and polluted one…Only when the planet’s inhabitants collaborate (including with machines), does it trigger a second evolution and undergo an additional transformation into a different planet, but a healthier one.

It’s not my intention to promote a techno-solutionist or techno-utopian approach to adaptation or the climate crisis, but more to encourage alternate modes of engagement beyond the dictates of late capitalism and its catastrophic externalities.

Drawings to AR
Storyboarding is how I began by making digital drawings in the app Procreate. Then I worked with my incredible developer to incorporate the drawings into this globe that spins and morphs over the course of the animation. The artwork differs from other projects in that it required little to no modeling in VR and instead is focused on the shifting of textures to illustrate change.

How do you see Stone Speaks as an extension of land art?

Stone Speaks is a project of ecological imagination. It continues the tradition of feminist land art insofar as it calls attention to a radical imbalance of resources and ecological interdependence, but also refuses to disrupt local flora and fauna by digging up or removing earth.

Monumental in scale, it takes up space in the liminal in-between space of AR – the simultaneous (almost quantum!) space of there, not there-ness that, to me at least, operates harmoniously with ideas of memory and a shared cultural thought-space. In this way, I think it advances land art beyond traditional notions or assumptions.

In what ways do you invite people to engage with Stone Speaks?

My hope is that they will interact with it, perform with it, write themselves into the story in any way that moves or inspires them. Most of all, I hope it prompts imagination and curiosity about how we might engage thoughtfully and intentionally with tools that aren’t destined for exploitative use, unless we allow them to be.

What do you hope viewers take away from their experience of it? 

I hope that they are inspired to think about interdependence, and about ways of collaborating with machine learning that are less extractive and more productive than current profit-driven initiatives. I hope they might imagine challenging current models of ecological overshoot and instead dream up new models whereby we might work collectively to begin to address some of the worst of humanity’s impact on the planet (not to mention fellow humans and carbon-based life).

What influenced you the most in your AR journey and what books do you recommend?

In addition to the above quote from James Bridle, I developed Stone Speaks in response to films like Stalker and Annihilation and podcasts like The Great Simplification.

BOOKS (a tiny selection):
Timothy Morton, Being Ecological, Hyperobjects
Byun-Chul Han, Psychopolitics
Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
Rosi Braidotti’s essay in Anthropocene Feminism
James Bridle, Ways of Being
Merlin Sheldrake, Entangled Life
Maggie Nelson, Bluets
Jeff VandeMeer, Annihilation and Borne 

About the Artist

Nancy Baker Cahill is an award-winning interdisciplinary artist whose hybrid practice focuses on systemic power, consciousness, and the human body. She creates research-based immersive experiences, video installations, and conceptual blockchain projects rooted in the history of drawing. Her monumental augmented reality (AR) artworks extend and subvert the lineage of land art, often highlighting the climate crisis, civics, and a desire for more equitable futures. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of 4th Wall, a free, AR public art platform exploring site interventions, resistance, and inclusive creative expression.

Her geolocated AR installations have been exhibited globally and have earned her profiles in the New York Times, Frieze Magazine, and The Art Newspaper, among other publications, and she was included in ARTnews’ list of 2021 ‘Deciders’. Her work has been exhibited internationally at museums and galleries, and her solo exhibition ‘Slipstream: Table of Contents’ was recently acquired by LACMA. In 2023, she will have her first solo mid-career retrospective exhibition at the Georgia Museum of Art which will travel through 2025. Her immersive film SEEK will premiere as the first art experience at COSM in Los Angeles in 2024. In the fall of 2023, Baker Cahill will present CENTO, a new video and AR commission at The Whitney Museum of American Art, to be acquired into the collection.

Baker Cahill ​is an artist scholar ​alumnus of the Berggruen Institute, a 2021 resident at Oxy Arts’ ‘Encoding Futures’ focused on AR monuments, and​ ​a TEDx speaker. In 2021, she was awarded the Williams College Bicentennial Medal of Honor and received the C.O.L.A. Master Artist Fellowship. She is a 2022 LACMA Art and Tech Grant recipient and was the January 2023 Gazelli.O Resident Artist at Gazelli Art House in London.


Stone Speaks and its associated programming is sponsored by Perennial Properties.

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