GMU:Artists Lab IV/Daria Dordina/Task 2

From Medien Wiki


I think, the vast majority of art pieces in the list works with code in a varying degree, so I will highlight 4 works that I personally found the most interesting.


Here is a description of the installation, written by the author: “group of intelligent agents, hanging out in some corner of the internet during their idle time, jamming with their synthetic wits... trying out language on each other... perhaps finding their own patois... making this alien language somehow their own” Software functions are voice recognition, free association and language generation. It seems to me that the most important function of this object is the development of a new language in which agents communicate with each other, even if in this case the generated speech is not a product of AI and serves only artistic purposes.

...conversation occurred between two AI agents developed inside Facebook. … “There was no reward to sticking to English language,” says Dhruv Batra, visiting research scientist from Georgia Tech at Facebook AI Research (FAIR). As these two agents competed to get the best deal–a very effective bit of AI vs. AI dogfighting researchers have dubbed a “generative adversarial network”–neither was offered any sort of incentive for speaking as a normal person would. So they began to diverge, eventually rearranging legible words into seemingly nonsensical sentences. “Agents will drift off understandable language and invent codewords for themselves,” ...

Listening Post

Listening Post is a ‘dynamic portrait’ of online communication, displaying uncensored fragments of text, sampled in real-time, from public internet chatrooms and bulletin boards. Here the main task of the program is to select significant pieces of correspondence and turn them into a symphony: also re-cutting and reassembling, as in the previous example, but at the different level, the texts are cut into sentences, not words, and the meaning of the symphony is attributed to the significance of the selected constructions “I am…”.

33 Questions per Minute

"33 Questions Per Minute" consists of a computer program which uses grammatical rules to combine words from a dictionary and generate 4.7 trillion unique, fortuitous questions. The automated questions are presented at a rate of 33 per minute --the threshold of legibility-- on 21 tiny LCD screens encrusted on the support columns of the exhibition hall or mounted on a wall. The system will take over 271,000 years to ask all possible questions. This is an obvious reference to the story "9 billion names of god", where Tibetan monks believe the Universe was created for the purpose of listing all names of God (which are just all possible combinations of letters in sacred alphabet, the number of combinations is 9 billions), and that once this naming is completed, God will bring the Universe to an end. The monks wish to use modern technology to finish this task more quickly and pay to programmers for creating such a program. In combinatoric problems, the meaninglessness of the single result fascinates as much as the allusion to the sacredness of the whole set.

Robotic Chair

The Robotic Chair is guided by an overhead vision system and controlled over a wireless network by an external computer. Various algorithms govern the chair’s behavior, while the software is structured in such a way that the system can learn from its environment. This object stands out in my collection by the fact that, firstly, it does not work with text, and secondly, it is present materially. Like the first example in which the generation of a new language was artistically displayed, it seems to me that this example artistically reflects an approach to things in a world where things can assemble themselves from their own parts. One involuntarily wonders what these things are. I come to the answer that these things are probably related to the war.

I think, at least half of art pieces in the list works with human individuality in a varying degree, so I will highlight 4 works that I personally found the most interesting.

Good Morning, Mr. Orwell

It was the first international satellite "installation": 30 minutes of electronic experiments form taped sections of celebrity performances, sound- and video art. I’m not sure how much my background affects my perception of this video, but it seems very optimistic in its spirit: the author welcomes Orwell on the first day of the new year with an experimental entertaining show broadcasting in several countries. I do not see here a message to the comprehension of Orwellian warns about system, tracking and control, but rather the pioneer euphoria.

Das Zauberglas

In “The Magic Glass” Melhus describes in the form of a Tele-story the mechanism of action between the ego and the medium: A young man is trying in vain to enter into a dialog with a young woman, whom he watches on a television screen. She represents his female alter ego. However, the television screen remains an insurmountable borderline which lets the attempt fail. The man is not able to find to his unconscious female alter ego, remaining caught in his longing. (from: Bjørn Melhus, exhibition catalog, Bremen/Munich.)

This work seemed to me the most bewitching of the entire selection. Probably the strongest moment in the video is the breaking of the fourth wall, and the fact that characters themselves pay very little attention to this, remaining inside their complex system of interaction. In general, the works of Melhus are full of doppelgängers, reflections and mutual influence of fiction and reality.

Tall Ships

Tall Ships consists of 16 video monitors, which are mounted in a line down the center of the ceiling of a completely dark, corridor-like space. There is one projection approximately every five feet alternating from side to side. The projections are of people of varying ethnic origin, age and gender with a halo-like quality. The figures, standing or seated and ranging from one to two feet high, first appear in the distance, at about eye level. It is very similar in mood to work Underscan from the last lecture, but now associations with the other world are already much more obvious.

Read / Write-Head

In connection with an eye / gaze-tracking system, the reading is also writing, for the gaze touches and selects the words. The eye / gaze-tracking system can measure the viewer’s reading gazes and thereby generate new, subjectivized statements. The reader himself creates experimental texts with his eye movements. The exhibit suggests, on the one hand, an imaginary continuity of reading but is, on the other hand, an apparatus for writing. Reading and writing, decoding and coding, can be experienced here as a space in between at the interface to the computer.

I understand that, presumably, this project should have been assigned to the number of projects in which the code plays a more important role, but in my opinion, since the author wanted to demonstrate the ideas of Lacan with the help of some installations, it is more correct to speak about him from the point of view human identity. It is known that Lacan used rather complex models to explain his theories, for example, a model with a concave mirror and a vase. It is curious to what extent such an installation can serve as illustrative material (as far as I understand from the description and video, all projects from the FACES OF SEEING collection transfer Lacan's ideas to the field of computerized media)

How for you personally software influences your self-perception?

What I use directly: constant access to the Internet, the Babylonian library is always at hand. I often first look for whether there were already some analogues of something on the web. Most often, in my reasoning, I can rely not only on some facts, but also view detailed comments on these facts. When I was at university, the expression "an engineer does not have to know everything, but must know where to find everything" was widespread, now it has almost become an absolute. My way of thinking is reformatted to formulate the right questions. Despite the fact that I had access to the Internet when I was already a teenager, access to this information archive has become an integral part of my life. I think it allowed the leading parts of the personality to develop even more: so, now if I have a choice, ask a person or google the answer, I will choose a conversation only when I really want to talk with this person. It alienates and it fascinates at the same time: access to any knowledge gives the feeling that you really appropriated the knowledge in some completely other, new way - you are now the one who can able to fix the bike, connect the chip to wi-fi, shift the floor in the bedroom or bake a cheesecake, everything that used to be considered the lot of some special actors ("put the screwdriver in place!")

What I use indirectly: the tendency of some networks to keep the user within his circle of comfort, to select posts and ads according to his desires and tastes. It seems that you are "in order", that in a sense, "everyone around lives in the same way as you".This impression is rather frightening and unpleasant.