I am a Colombian transdisciplinary artist, studying and working in Germany.
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On this page you will find, in the form of blog entries, the progress of my research.
Tabula Rasa By Isabella Lee Arturo
1. Project description:
‘Tabula Rasa’ is a transdisciplinary project that involves multiple media such as texts, drawings, a sound installation, a performance and Artificial Intelligence. It will be presented at the end of SoSeSommersemester – summer semester 2022 in an art installation that invites the public to interact with the art pieces, even to alter certain aspects of them as a creative contribution.
The installation will be the culmination of a year of questions related to the relationship between power and communication. The result is an artistic experience inspired by two phenomena: The resistance to forced silencing, Contemporary cybernetic model of translation and information.
The main objective of ‘Tabula Rasa’ is to elaborate a communicative system with the audience. By rejecting the idea of the artwork as something untouchable and to be seen from a distance, the project takes inspiration from both Performative Diagrammatics and the tradition of Self-Destructive Art proposed by Gustav Metzger.
To accompany the interactive art objects, there will be a multimedia performance, described on the following three points:
1.1. The performance :
The performance consists of a live drawing that I will make on the floor, as I try to verbally express a message. However, a paper placed in my mouth prevents the words from being understood, while at the same time a microphone records my voice. The mentioned microphone sends the signal to a program that has a series of gates, which allow the recognition of different volume values. Depending on the voice volume used, the audio files in the database are activated accordingly. In other words, it creates the illusion that a machine is translating what I am trying to say.
Figure 1. Sketch of the performance, on a stage laid out with chalkboard paint, ready to be drawn. Around the stage there will be a surround sound system. The audience will be invited to step on the drawing and erase some parts of it.
Figure 2. Picture of the performance, where I place a piece of paper in my mouth to prevent my speech.
1.2. My text vs the AI text generator:
However, what I want to say and what comes out from the speakers are two different things. On one hand, the obstructed speech is a personal testimony that comes from individual and family experiences, as well as subjective reflections on how they relate to the events of the Colombian conflict. And while the speech is incomprehensible, the drawings offer additional insight into its meaning. The use of visual tools as an act of resistance against forced silencing is a reference to the Greek myth of Philomela.
On the other hand, using Python-script for generative text creation, I translate my original script into a completely different text. I achieve this process by feeding the AI with official Colombian government documents, so that it learns to write (and speak) in this particular way. Thus, a translation of my personal speech into a “bureaucratic” way of speaking is generated.
Figure 3. Simplified diagram of the Machine Learning process for text generation.
As I struggle to express my words, a robotic version of my voice speaks in a manner similar to that used by my country's leaders whenever they refer to the tragedies of the armed conflict. Figure 4. A system that will capture the input audio with a microphone, my muffled voice. The software identifies the volume levels of my voice, and triggers the audio files from the sound bank.
1.3. The installation and interactive pieces :
The art installation will consist of interactive artefacts which will address the “destruction” of language in two different ways:
A text printed on paper is set to be torn to pieces by a shredding machine. Visitors can activate the shredding at any time through interactive sensors. This piece refers to the sentence that opponents of the Colombian peace agreement and the political party of the current government popularised in their campaign, openly describing their intentions to "shred the peace accords into pieces".
Several video art pieces displayed on monitors that focus on the theme of verbal language. Some of the screens will be destroyed as part of their sculptural physicality. Some of the videos will react to the viewer's presence through visual recognition, rendering their content indecipherable.