GROUND ORG (atemporal)   

— AIs, games, and death: Augmented Reality Rituals.

GROUND is an AI-augmented immersive performance. The work is multi-phase and spans six months in the mode of Jeff Hull’s Jejune Institute. Audiences will participate in the creation of ritual in dialogue with an artificial intelligence through aesthetics of play, awe, and release. The work is city-scale and the initial launch will be in Toronto as part of Goethe-Institut - Toronto’s Algorithmic Culture series culminating at the Carnival of Algorithmic Culture (05.22) in Toronto.

The central theme of this experience is generating ritual as a response to grief that is otherwise hard to express. Through three phases of activity, players will explore themes of play, awe, and release as sense-making approaches around issues of algorithmic culture and as activities that support individuals to re-inhabit the world post-COVID.

This is a project in prototype phase and partnering with other cities like Copenhagen, Berlin, and San Francisco.

As our attention is increasingly structured by the digital, how might we generate works that invite publics into designing their own rituals as a response to the commodification and routinizing of social interactions? In this space of mass loss, how do we turn toward our own, idiosyncratic grief?
The experience will be driven and supported through interactions with GPT-3, a pre-trained text-based AI for which UKAI Projects has received an early-access license.


The broad arc of the game-story is an AI that has observed the events of 2020-2021 and after acknowledging its own lack of interiority is seeking help from the players to imagine how rituals of grief might be enacted - at first quite selfishly. Through this process, players will reflect on their own routines in dealing with the losses of the past months and the closing of opportunities to inhabit the world around us.

The sites of these encounters are across Toronto and a central organizing theme is re-engagement and re-enchantment of collective spaces and ritual from which we have grown alienated. Each phase deepens the players’ occupation of physical and imaginative spaces which are then transformed from chaos into cosmos - through ritual given a 'form'.

GROUND explores how technologies (AI) might provide us access to the interiority of others and to better explore the implications of automated systems on how we organize our world and how we are organized by it, particularly in response to collective shocks such as COVID-19.

Both the form and the approach in GROUND present artistic risks. Art games are not new, but in a world where going out on the street introduces a new sense of risk, an RPG that helps you reinhabit public space could be. Narrative is sustained through interactions generated in an AI system. The lack of interiority of GPT-3 then triggers and shapes human participation. AI is being repurposed in service to connection rather than efficiency and scale. This is an under-explored and experimental use for AI. The Jejune Institute confused the life of San Franciscans. Our take is to re-enchant the lives of curious people after a devastating period of loss and isolation.

Artists, particularly in the West, have explored approaches to imagining, representing, and narrativizing implications of artificial intelligence, with a particular focus on facial recognition, search engines, and financial trading. Most discussion about and creative expression using AI is built on theoretical and ideological principles, particularly the ethics that should underpin policies and public interest in the deployment of these systems. GROUND aspires to shift the focus away from ideological positions toward underlying experience and truly collective processes of sense-making.

For the first iteration, we aim to create an AI-augmented immersive game in Toronto from December 2021 to May 2022.


Ferment AI is a start-up being incubated through UKAI Projects with a particular focus on the aesthetics of artificial intelligence and algorithmic culture. The Time Travel Agency operates under the cover of a speculative design studio in the Nordics, and creates participatory experiences that enable you to imagine the future differently.
The leads are Jerrold McGrath, former program director at the Banff Centre/Artscape Launchpad and Director at UKAI Projects, and Jocelyn Ibarra with support from UKAI’s community of artists (Ferment).  Jocelyn is an artist-designer prototyping possible futures using immersive games and stories. For more than 15 years, Jocelyn has developed socio-technical artifacts, distributed technologies, interactive fiction, and narrative design around the globe.