Government of Moscow
Department of Culture of the city of Moscow
LABORATORIA Art&Science Foundation
Curator: Daria Parkhomenko
Memo Akten (UK/Turkey)
Dmitry Kawarga (Russia)
Jon McCormack (Australia)
Egor Kraft (Russia)
Thomas Feuerstein (Austria)
Where dogs run (Russia)
Erik Mátrai (Hungary)
Elena Nikonole (Russia)
Justine Emard (France)
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” Arthur C. Clarke
Every time has its own daemons: headstrong ancient Greek “daemons” – begetters, ghosts, angels and demons of monotheistic religions, artificial intelligence of the immediate future. Now “daemons” are referred to as routine processes of operating systems.
Today, our magical thinking is directed to digital processes that became “Second nature” of the human being: we animate them, fill them with hyper-expectations and hyper-fears, try to define them with the help of new myths. The artists seek for language to cast spells on new daemons or talk with them in their language: machines, neural networks and electric circuits.
Rosi Braidotti, one of the main posthumanism theoreticians, argues that zoé, vital life force, is peculiar both for the man and other types of matter – including technical objects. Artificial intelligence appears as a posthuman subject that consists of mechanical and digital elements.
Philosopher Alexey Grinbaum points at the similarity between intellectual systems of contemporary world and Judaic angels – autonomous entities that serve the purpose declared in advance. Will artificial neural networks serve modern society like angels serve God? Invisible, ghostly and increasingly autonomous entities are the technological servants of modern society that provide its continuous functioning. They combine aspects of myth, politics, science and technology. Daemons-councillors of Ancient Greeks become semi-autonomous workers, guards and observers of the modern world.
Appearance of the rational daemon – strong artificial intelligence (AI) – is ahead. Maybe it is as mythical object as the “Einstein’s Brain” in Rolan Barth’s telling that solves all problems of the universe. Myth of the machine brain encourages both scientists and contemporary artists: emergence of strong AI will imply not only changes in daily life, but fundamental transformation of the very notions of human, art and consciousness.
If strong artificial intelligence is possible, will we be able to understand we are already in “brave new world”, or to the moment of technological singularity we will merge with Second nature insomuch that will be inseparable from its evolution?
New technological revolution may appear as the most radical in human history, that’s why LABORATORIA Art&Science Foundation took this topic for its tenth anniversary exhibition that is dedicated to artistic rethinking of AI. The majority of projects presented is created specially for the exhibition in deep collaboration of the artists, scientists and engineers.
Participants of the exhibition create modern daemons with their instruments, re-think, criticize, teach them, foster dialogue with them. The system of artificial intelligence becomes an art form.
Thomas Feuerstein (Austria)
Project “Tea for Kirillov”, 2018
Commissioned by LABORATORIA Art&Science Foundation
Supported by Kaspersky Lab
The artist tells a story on the edge of speculative fiction and digital uncanny. It leads spectator into the depths of posthumanism where a person, their body, thinking and actions undergo fundamental transformation. A person is not lonely anymore: they are always surrounded by biotechnological and digital extensions and autonomous creatures that extend and dissolve the boundaries of humanity. The title “Tea for Kirillov” refers to the character of the novel “Demons” by F.M. Dostoevsky, engineer Kirillov. He is obssessed with the issues of freedom of will, desire and predestination. In this art project Kirillov gets a virtual life and continues his search for freedom, identity and himself. Kirillov becomes an animistic ghost living in all things, he becomes a part of the Internet of Things. In epoch of digital totality and AI arguments of Dostoevsky about the changes in the society and people become relevant again.
The project “Tea for Kirillov” consists of three parts: “Governor’s Room”, “Dark Room” and Borgy & Bes.
This story begins with the meeting with the virtual character of Kirillov in his working cabinet. This virtual entity tests the Schopenhauer’s statement: a man can act at will, but can’t control his will. Electronic networks fill it with data that gets more and more tangled, when, finally, the difference between him and surrounding techno-world vanishes. Hundreds of photographs, diagrams and tables cover the walls, representing the cultural history of man’s interaction with technology, from the ancient myths of creation to artificial life and artificial intelligence. Physically the Engineer is absent in the room, but on the screen of surveillance camera the visitors see themselves in the room together with Kirillov who is working at his desk. The drawers open and close, as if they were moved by invisible hand, the vapor rises from the hot tea cup. An ancient flyball governor visualizes data from the Internet moving with the rhythm of information stream. The audience feels the presence of the technological Other in real-time mode.
The visitor gets into darkened space. This is a labyrinth of hundreds of cables connecting strange objects that consist of control panels, regulators and monitors. The system that monitor hacking activity [cyberattacks, bots etc.] fills these objects with life: make them vibrate and produce deep bass sounds. This is the net’s subconsciousness: the “black box” where, invisible and odd for an average user, processes-“daemons” take place, maintaining the system’s life.
In postapocalyptic world of future, two antic surgery lamps transformed into robotic cyber-creatures – Borgy (from Cyborg) and Bes (from “Demons” by Dostoevsky). They move, talk, whisper, argue with each other. They discuss modern news and problems they learn about in real-time mode on the Internet; but translate them into the language of F.M. Dostoevsky. They avoid people – they have more interest talking to each other. Verbal behavior of Borgy and Bes is governed by special-trained artificial neural network and synthesized voices, their choreography – by the system of actuators. The artist together with neuro-scientists and robot technicians designed in the characters of installation the grounds of individuality, like living creatures, they have needs in communication, rest, safety, love. They move in an attempt to meet them. Robots react emotionally at perceived information: they shiver from traumatic news and avoid curious visitors.
The borders between artificial intelligence and humanity vanish: these hybrid creatures are possessed by daemons of network voices and program protocols and foreshow the epoch of dialogue with artificial intelligence.
Three main methods can be distinguished in the works of the artists of the Daemons in the machine exhibition:
Thomas Feuerstein, “Where dogs run”, Elena Nikonole create new mythologies. Thomas Feuerstein and “Where dogs run” re-actualizes “Demons” by F.M.Dostoevsky and “Divine Comedy” Dante Alighieri, transcending them to the world of technological singularity, and uncover monumental pictures of possible future before us. Elena Nikonole refers to the ancient Greek theatre image of Deus ex machina: neural network becomes the author of new sacred text that enters into the world through microphones of security cameras and IP-printers.
Dmitry Kawarga, Jon McCormack and ::vtol:: create Technocenoses: autonomous communities of intellectual systems. Their works live in their own world, the human presence in it is non-obliging. “Absorbing Concepts” by Dmitry Kawarga transforms philosophical texts into abstract drawings, robots-painters of Jon McCormack build their ecosystem and try to make arrangement to survive together, and ::vtol:: presents his cyber-mother who is preoccupied with surviving of her fosterlings – Tamagochi toys.
The main theme of the third group of artworks by Memo Akten, Egor Kraft and Justine Emard becomes the exploration of the outer world by the robots and gradual self-complication. They live together with us: they try to recognize and remember the visitors at the exhibition, invent intricate substitutes for lost fragments of Ancient Greek statues, learn dancing and human speech.
From our very birth we are included not only in the world of living creatures, but in the world of machines as well — global technocenosis of modernity. Artists reflect upon this situation and create new myths. They speak with the visitors on “techne” language – combination of technology and art. Together with the unity of creation is born the unity of the world. A man stops being “the measure of all things”. The machines get their measure – daemons, and they gradually get their autonomy in it, while art provokes the dialogue between biological and technological agents.