Does a computational code hold any weight? How does an algorithm comprehend colours? Amongst waves of the ocean, could a bit become its smallest unit? What is the nature of the reality seems to be a never-ending question, with one answer leading to another question. Even the veracity of the word, "reality", demands further contemplation. While dwelling on the verge of this question that could fall into the abyss of the void, Colombian artist Fito Segrera sheds light on a possibility – the world as we know it is illusory, a mental construct, a realm where signals of human senses gather. A 20th Century physicist, John Archibald Wheeler shared a similar idea. His concept of "It from Bit" proposes that quantized nature derives from quantized information, and so that the bit becomes the indivisible end-particle. Segrera's work establishes a new perception through the transmutation of bits into it (phenomena) and vice-versa. Here, the world is simulated and represented by the "dialogue" between the bit and the atoms.
The Treachery of [Soft] Images
LCD screens, micro-computers, Internet router, cognitive computation engine and custom software.
The Treachery of [Soft] Images is an inquiry into new forms of conceptual art which make use cognitive computational systems and Internet technologies. The piece appropriates Rene Magritte's famous statement "This is not a pipe" in his painting "The treachery of images" and utilizes it as the starting point for an experiment in art and machine learning, hence revealing a new hybridized notion of reality rendered over our natural cognition by intelligent on-line systems.
The installation consists of two computers with framed LCD displays inserted into a wall. The computer on the left searches on the Internet for an image of six possible objects: a pipe, a broom, a hammer, a sponge, a jar or an egg. Once an image is scraped from bing's image search engine, the system submits it to a cognitive computation engine, an artificial neural network trained to recognize, analyze and describe images in a human-like form. The result is displayed on the right screen of the installation, revealing the conceptual reality experienced by the machine. In a similar way than Magritte's original piece, which evidences the way images betray our notion of reality through signs, The Treachery of [Soft] Images reveals the distortion of reality rendered by cutting edge on-line artificial brains and the way these affect our perception.
Digital 3D mundane objects (skull, T.V, cow, knife and teapot), google maps API and custom software
Artists from the 16th and 17th centuries were often concerned about the meaninglessness of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits. Vanitas are symbolic representations of these early existential anxieties. These artworks were visual compositions of objects in dark and closed spaces; typically used as funerary art reminding of the brevity of life and suddenness of death. One could easily refer to these as some kind of mortorious still life paintings.
Post-Vanitas revives the visual language and ideas implied in this old form of art, rethinking its meaning in a technologized and interconnected world. Using custom software and web technologies, this piece generates digital 3d mundane objects (as in Vanitas and still life art) and renders them in an unpredictable space. The software scraps, in real-time, google maps engine's images and stitches them together to create 360 ° panoramas that are then applied as textures to computer generated three-dimensional spaces. The result are dynamic procedural Vanitas jumping in cyberspace; traveling within the parallel visual representation of the world constructed by google.
Realtime Wave Transcoder
Remote Oceanographic data, metallic drums, metal beads, custom electronics and software
This installation takes realtime data available on internet APIs that own marine sensors distributed around the world. With a set of coordinates (latitude, longitude) the software gets the height and period of the waves in that specific location to then reconstruct the data in an analog form. The extracted data is mapped to motion which generates analog sound; dislocating a portion of ocean and transposing it into the gallery space.
Agnosis: the lost memories…
Brain-computer interface, custom software, digital 3D sculptures, generative book, prints
Agnosis: the lost memories… proposes a system which embeds a technological layer over the human biological one. The system uses a brain-computer interface with an embedded camera. It constantly scans the artist's brain activity and records moments where his attention drops. Using this data and algorithms, the system then is able to register these moments of absence, as both brainwaves information and images. In parallel, by using accessible online tools, the system autonomously analyzes and interprets these memories.
As a result, all lost memories are rendered as abstract sculptures in a 3D virtual world (digital monoliths). At the same time, an autonomously generated log book is produced and printed (machine thoughts / interpretations of the lost memories).
What is a virtual world made of? What is its essential substance? Can that ocean of code actually be the support for new forms and expressions of life, perhaps with no physical body, but aware of its own existence? How does the metaverse evolve? Thinking about the metaverse of Second Life implies questioning reality, existence as we understand it. This documentary-machinima captures moments of creation, instants where the original formless digital substance takes a logical and recognizable form, from abstraction to representation, from unknown to known.
Fito Segrera is a Colombian artist, technologist and Head of Research/Creation at Chronus Art Center, Shanghai. His current research and creative practice appropriates elements from digital philosophy, artificial intelligence, monism and modern physics while using physical computing, software programming and information/ telecommunication technologies to inquiry in fundamental ontological questions regarding the nature of reality and the physicality of the universe.
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