Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

Archive for the ‘art_technology’ Category

Question of Intelligence

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Before COVID-19 shutdown New York City, I had the opportunity to experience the exhibition “The Question of Intelligence – AI and the Future of Humanity” curated by Christiane Paul at Parson’s Kellen Gallery. I did not enter the exhibition expecting to witness disparate algorithms animating the exhibition space. It took me a few minutes to realize that the empty gallery (populated only by myself and two silent gallery sitters busily working, I suppose, on their school work) was brought to life by artworks forced to listen to one another and respond. I’m talking about artworks sensing via microphones, cameras, the internet; processing through artificial intelligence, machine learning, algorithms; and communicating via speakers, projectors, screens, printers, the internet and miniature swamps.

Christiane Paul has assembled elder artificial intelligence artworks over 40 years old (though still learning) with nascent works just starting to realize themselves. With the popular explosion of catch phrases including “Big Data,” “AI,” “Machine Learning,” “Today, right now, you have more power at your finger tips than entire generations that came before you…” (I used to appreciate Common before the Microsoft commercial, now I cringe when I hear his voice), Paul has curated a learning experience that recognizes the generational history of artificial intelligence as a creative medium.

Upon entering the gallery, one hears female artificial voices generating poetry or relating temperatures and soil humidity and other environmental measures or in the distance an occasional tweet. To the left, I saw a big black microphone and elected to approach it as the first means toward interactivity. I introduced myself and then watched my words projected onto the wall along with Chinese-style landscape paintings. Trails are drawn from word groupings to word groupings along with drawn landscapes and icons forming a word and image map. The projection is a mind map generator based on the words captured by the microphone. Following a few phrases, I decided it wasn’t very interesting and decided to move on. Adjacent to it is Lynn Hershman Leeson’s chatbot Agent Ruby (2001), but having interacted with one of Leeson’s works at Yerba Buena’s “The Body Electric” recently, I only spent a minute with it before moving on, also it didn’t know what to make of what I was telling it.

“image may contain” by Lior Zalmanson

Adjacent to the chatbot, is Lior Zalmanson’s “image may contain” in which the artist feeds historically significant images into FaceBook’s Automatic Alternative Text image recognition algorithm, an accessibility AI to help contextualize images for the blind and sight impaired. The artists uses the uncontextualized and minimal description of the historical images to identify “similar” images and then collapses them onto lenticular prints. Above are the images that appear in the first print as I move from left to right. The work simply and clearly shows that bots such as AAT should not be used to present information and least of all pretend to be a source of knowledge, at least not yet.

“Us Aggregated” by Mimi Onuoha

Similarly, Mimi Onuoha uploaded a photo of her mother “to Google’s reverse image search, which allows one to upload a picture to find online images that the Google algorithms identify as related.” Scaled, printed and framed from the initial image at the center to the algorithmically related images encircling, a seemingly family home portrait wall appears, leading one to question the process of algorithmic categorization based entirely on visual similarity. With such a project, I can’t help but recall eugenics and Sekula’s “The Body and the Archive.”

I then circled back toward the center of the gallery to try and figure out what was going on with “The Giver of Names” by David Rokeby. And it wasn’t until I read the instructions and changed the objects on the pedestal to assemble my own still life that the brilliance of the exhibition really dawned on me!

“The Giver of Names” (naming since 1990) consists of a monitor, speaker, old CCTV camera, pedestal, pile of old toys and a program that tries to understand what it is seeing through the camera to generate poetry. Once I removed the toys left on the pedestal and placed my own selection, I watched the AI go into action by identifying shapes and colors and then trying to make sense of what it was identifying or “seeing.” Those shapes and colors feed a poetry algorithm that speaks and writes to the monitor adjacent to the CCTV camera. Meanwhile, just beyond this installation, the not very interesting mind mapping microphone is also capturing this generated poetry as it echoes across the gallery and starts mind mapping away. AWESOME! The gallery is its own loop of machines churning away at one another’s utterances. This realization helped me refocus my attention and expand my time with each work. I tried to capture this in the video at the top of this entry.

Near the entrance on a wall monitor, hangs AARON which I had merely paused at for a few seconds but now returned to observe. “AARON is the earliest artificial intelligence program for artmaking and one of the longest running ongoing projects in contemporary art. Harold Cohen started creating AARON at UCSD in the late 1960s and developed the software until his death in 2016. In this video AARON produces a new color image every 10 to 15 minutes.” As one tours the gallery, AARON is quietly working away creating shapes and lines of color, artful abstractions.

“Deep Swamp” by Tega Brian

Back near the center of the gallery, just beyond “The Giver of Names” is another work with a female computer voice speaking at intervals. Tega Brain’s “Deep Swamp” asks “if new ‘wilderness’ is the absence of explicit human intervention, what would it mean to have autonomous computational systems sustain wild places?” The handsome installation has three AIs, Nicholas, Hans and Harrison each “engineer their environment for different goals. Harrison aims for a natural looking wetland, Hans is trying to produce a work of art and Nicholas simply wants attention.”

“Learning to See” by Memo Akten uses machine learning to relate the objects on a pedestal that a camera captures to five different data sets that the system has been fed. The visitor can re-arrange the objects on the pedestal to see new interpretations. Across from the pedestal on a wall is a split screen that shows the image captured by the camera adjacent to the system’s interpretation. “Every 30 seconds the scene changes between different networks trained on five different datasets: ocean and waves, clouds and sky, fire and flowers, and images from the Hubble Space telescope.

Similarly across the gallery, hang a series of prints by Mary Flanagan. The work is [Grace:AI] in which generative algorithms trained on thousands of paintings and drawings by women to create a series of images. “[Grace:AI] was tasked to create her ‘origin story’ by looking at 20,000 online images of Frankenstein’s monster and producing its portrait.”

Both “Learning to See” and “[Grace:AI]” employ generative adversarial networks (GAN), to generate new visualizations. Using GAN anyone can put their own conceptual spin to generate a data set for the machine to learn and see what it spits out. Over the last few years, I’ve seen a few similar projects, my favorite remains an early one – the MEOW Generator trained on a cat dataset.

Perhaps the most darkly monumental project are the large four black machines with spinning fans, exuding steam and ticker tape – the installation component of #BitSoil Tax by LarbitsSisters. The project proposes the fair redistribution of internet wealth to all people through a new taxation system. The installation is utopian, dark and whimsical.

“microBitsoils” by LarbitsSisters

Other projects on exhibit include “Futures of Work” by Brett Wallace, and Ken Goldberg and the AlphaGarden Collective.

NEGOCIO at Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

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VAGAMUNDO: A Migrant's Tale

NEGOCIO at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante is an ambitious attempt to present an archive of the creation of games as art largely over the last twenty years, though one work – “White Chess” by Yoko Ono dates back to 1966. The majority of works have been created in the 21st century. The exhibition presents a mix of digital and analog games and the vast majority of the exhibition is interactive – allowing visitors to play the games on exhibit as intended by the artists.

I’ve been honored with the inclusion of VAGAMUNDO: A Migrant’s Tale (2002) included the exhibition (pictured above). This is a sculpture and video game originally presented on the street that unfortunately is as timely today as 16 years ago due to the Trump administration’s stance regarding immigration.

The curators – David Machado Gutierrez, Alba Garcia Martinez, Beatriz Martinez-Villagrasa and Miguel Soria Andurell state:

The origin of the game, is lost in the memory of time; the game is perhaps as old as the very existence of the human being on earth. But what does the game transmit to us today apart from its playful appearance? Can art use it as a tool that reflects on challenges and social reality? Does it also work as an act of criticism? This exhibition does not pretend not to answer these questions, since it would be too ambitious, but it is formulated so that the spectator participates and, using the works of art as a guide. The exhibition investigates in the multiple planes what may unfolds in games as art.

Below are a selection of photographs documenting the exhibition.

NEGOCIO at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

NEGOCIO at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

NEGOCIO at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Two game sculptures by Cuban artist Abel Barroso
Abel Barroso at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Carlos No’s Intifada – a “ping-pong table which, in place of a net, has been divided into two halves by a very high brick wall, topped by barbed wire that heightens a feeling of insurmountabilty. There arises in the spectator the curiosity of seeing the other side, the place which one is forbidden to see and be in, as if one had discovered Lewis Carrol’s charade in the passage to the other side of the looking-glass. In this wonderland that comprises this side and the other side, both the space and the visitor’s steps are divided into two.”
Abel Barroso at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Velvet-Strike is a mod of the first-person shooter video game Counter-Strike. The mod, developed by Anne-Marie Schleiner, Joan Leandre, and Brody Condon, adds “protest sprays” to the game’s existing graffiti function.”
Velvet Strike at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Ladrillazo is a historical game that takes you to the real estate bubble of the first decade of the 21st century. There were days of wine and roses, an interpretation center in each town, an airport in each city, mortgages at 40 years, masons with minister salaries, Olympic dreams, AVEs and golf resorts.”
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Pac-Art is a version of the immensely popular Arcade video game Pac-Man. In this case, Pac-Art has transformed Pac-Man into an artist who has to devour famous works of art and flee from ghost-artists who threaten him.”
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Ravalpoly by Alba Refulgente – a game of real estate speculation in Barcelona that re-contextualizes the game Monopoly.
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Visitors will have the opportunity to play Yoko Ono’s “White Chess.”
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Many other artists and game makers are included in this exhibition, including Brenda Romero, Connor Monahan, Molleindustria, Richard Hofmeier, Jason Rohrer, Joan Priego amongst others. And one more image of VAGAMUNDO:
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Realidad VE

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Realidad VE

Realidad VE is a virtual reality experiment in combining documentary material with a virtual space

Realidad VE is a small experiment that attempts to combine documentary material with virtual space for VR presentation.

Last fall I had an extended interview with José Bergher a retired professor and classically trained musician from Venezuela who was the director of the Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. Throughout his professional career he worked between New York City and Caracas and the reason behind the interview was to learn about that dual citizenry – about living between cultures and floating from one part of the world to the other. However as the interview progressed, I asked José about the current state of Venezuela – politically, economically and the common problems that people face day to day. He replied with a 20 minute discussion of the rise of Chavez and the current power-grab by Maduro and the lasting influence of Fidel Castro.

I knew that this discussion would not be appropriate for the project that I was working on, but I appreciate his first-hand perspective and given the last several weeks in Venezuela, I wanted to present his voice in a unique format. Entirely based on my news consumption of current protests, clashes and seemingly general instability in Venezuela, I created a blank world with the exception of dead trees and abandoned drilling rigs. The world is populated by men and women running across the space. A boy sits against a tree taking in the world around him. At another spot a young couple argues and elsewhere two friends are in discussion. Along the entire perimeter paramilitary troops stand guard and watch the space. At a couple spots trios of soldiers have friendly discussions. In this world, the military is at ease, though watchful whereas the people appear frantic.

I’m interested in combining documentary material such as the interview with José Bergher with virtual space and employing virtual reality as a platform for documentary. Jose’s discussion of current Venezuelan politics presented an opportunity for experimentation. Pictured above is the project for installation that features an animated José Bergher above the virtual space, the project is online with out Bergher’s video, only his voice accompanies the virtual space as the inclusion of video made an already long load time much longer.

“Hansel & Gretel” at Park Avenue Armory – Save Your Money

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Hansel & Gretel at Park Avenue Armory

The “Hansel & Gretel” curatorial statement describes the installation as a space that brings together Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron and Ai Weiwei combined interests in

the psychological impact of architecture and the politics of public space; creating a playful, strange, and eventually eerie environment with different layers of reality revealed to the visitor… Hansel & Gretel is a dystopian forest of projected light where the floor rises up, as if lifted by an invisible force, and visitors are tracked by infrared cameras and surveyed by overhead drones as they systematically capture the parkgoers’ data and movements…

Unfortunately, the only portion of this description that resonates is the playfulness. Indeed Herzog, de Meuron and Weiwei have created a dark environment in which visitors may skip around and play with light traces of their image. However, the installation lacks strangeness, eeriness, politics or any psychological reverberation.

Other than the initial moment of discovery that one’s image is being projected on to the ground after it is periodically taken due to on one’s movement in the space, the installation presents very little that is interesting. The drones may have been a neat prop had they not been tethered.

The second part of the installation is a didactic revelation of what the installation is trying to allude to – that we are objects of surveillance. As far as a critical art installation regarding surveillance, there was much more interesting work done 15+ years ago. Perhaps the theme of surveillance has been so overly investigated and picked apart by art previously and by entertainment today (“Black Mirror” for example) that such an installation seems trite and naive. There is so much of our data being captured today, that building an installation that merely plays upon facial recognition and motion sensors is just kind of dumb, but it is playful. So if $16 is worth the cost of running around a huge dark open space and playing with light projection, check it out.

Hansel & Gretel at Park Avenue Armory

A second perspective: Playtime at the Armory
Once again discovering what this city has to offer, there I was with Ricardo walking into a venue called the Armory near Hunter College, a place I had never been before to see a new art installation called “Hansel & Gretel”. He had been keen to check this out for a few weeks, and like the curious creature I am, I followed along.

We received a quick intro and were instructed to read a phase on the wall before entering -which i forgot- and then allowed to enter. We walked into black nothingness. My immediate reaction was to scramble for Ricardo’s hand. I didn’t realize the massiveness of this place until my eyes adjusted from the summer sunlight to the darkness inside of the Armory. It was only eerie the first few minutes because I had no idea where the hell I was walking. There were a few cameras far above us hanging from the ceiling and lights that would follow us. As we continued to walk, our movement was detected, grid lines would appear and cameras would be activated to capture our moves. Suddenly, it was playtime! It was fun to pose in different positions to watch the resulting snap shot of yourself illuminated on the black floor. At one point my sweater and shoes came off and I really got into it.

Ricardo noticed two drones hovering on one side of the space living poor unfulfilled lives- tied onto leashes without free movement. It would have been more interesting if they were chasing people around. After exhausting our ideas for poses, the novelty wore off and we were ready to enter part deux of the installation. For that, we had to exit this part of the Armory and enter from another entrance on the other side of the street.

After pausing in front of a camera you were allowed inside. There were many ipads on long tables with apps. You could elect to have your face identified and then search the cameras for your photo which was taken in the first part of the installation. That was cool. You could read about the history of surveillance, or access cameras to spy on others walking into the exhibits. The Armory itself was impressive, the installation not as much. It was a new, interesting experience- a fun activity for kids, I would say. I didn’t leave with the feeling that I had witnessed an impressive statement against today’s constant scrutiny and monitoring that we are all under. I didn’t feel intruded upon. There wasn’t anything menacing or fantastical as is described in the program leaflet. It was just pretty cool and fun.

Perhaps the work behind the installation was complicated, but with my lack of technical know-how, I failed to appreciate the amount of effort involved. To have truly made an impact, more could have been done to confuse or play with the audience with the intention of throwing them off or perhaps even scaring them. Coupling that with the sound of Russian men having conversations in the background (that felt clandestine in nature), and I would have possibly left quite feeling differently.

Hansel & Gretel at Park Avenue Armory

AdNauseam Because You Are Tracked

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AdNuseam

Our clicks appear to be worth money not merely to the mad-men of today, but to the digital overloads that increasingly control the internet. Due to Google popularity and value, it has gained a great deal of control over the surface layers of the internet and in doing so has gained control over a portion of human consciousness. Human consciousness that is very valuable… It can be manipulated and monetized. As with all media, the messages that you see and hear are dictated by the ownership. Once it was thought that no one owned the internet or the web, that it was a free and open space for discourse and exchange. This has not been true for sometime; it really was never true, but early on it was at least less monitored and shaped.

The browser add-on AdNauseam is “designed to obfuscate browsing data and protect users from tracking by advertising networks. At the same time, AdNauseam serves as a means of amplifying users’ discontent with advertising networks that disregard privacy and facilitate bulk surveillance agendas.” We should not be tracked unless we have agreed to be tracked and not in small print.

AdNauseam – Clicking Ads So You Don't Have To from mushon on Vimeo.

Written by ricardo

January 8th, 2017 at 11:07 pm

OMETEPE Video Game Featured at FLEFF

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OMETEPE the Video Game

Curators of Interface/Landscape 2016 New Media Exhibition, Claudia Costa and Dale Hudson have selected the online video game OMETEPE to be featured in the New Media portion of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival at Ithaca College, NY. Check out the festival linked above or go directly to the game: for OMETEPE on Firefox/Mozilla or OMETEPE on Safari/Chrome. However, the best experience is to download and play locally. Download links are listed under the game.

Written by ricardo

December 12th, 2016 at 11:58 am

Woman In Subway

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This is the latest animated loop inspired by traversing the city. Whether walking or on public transit, observations of urban life trigger visual ideas that are rendered as brief animations. Audio accompanying the animations are recordings from urban walks as well as interviews with NYC residents. The audio accompanying this animation is from a brief excerpt from an extended interview with my 86 year old neighbor Louise.

Go to rmz.nyc to see the entire series, click on the central image to go from one to the next. Through the combination of animation, WebGL, web video and audio as well as various javascript libraries such as p5.js and three.js, the browser is employed as a canvas.

Eyebeam Awards Benefit

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Eyebeam Awards Benefit Invitation

Eyebeam Awards Benefit Invitation

May 10th is the Second Eyebeam Awards Benefit, a gala event that this year celebrates the work of new media curator Barbara London and artist-activist collective Not An Alternative on May 10th from 6:30-9pm at Industry City Distillery, 33 35th St 6A, Brooklyn, NY. If you are unable to attend the gala, please consider making a donation to help Eyebeam to continue to support artists exemplifying creativity and courage!

Eyebeam Mission

Eyebeam is a nonprofit studio for collaborative experiments with technology toward a more imaginative and just world. By providing generous support to artists for research, production and education, Eyebeam makes ideas real.

Eyebeam Model of Practice

As the leading arts organization for technology in the United States, Eyebeam grounds its unique model of practice on the following assertions:

Ideas work. With critical knowledge of the world, people can create a better one.
Process matters. Nothing is more powerful than expectation-free experimentation.
Impact counts. When ideas work together, the effects can cascade exponentially.

The vision of technology here includes all processes, tools and strategies for navigating a complex world. The residency program provides people with space and time to develop their ideas into full projects. Drawing entirely on the community of residents and alums, Eyebeam then expands their work into exciting programs with lasting impact.

to send checks instead of making donations online, they should make checks payable to: Eyebeam
Mail to:
Eyebeam
Attn: André St. Clair
34 35th Street
5th Floor, Unit 26
Brooklyn, NY 11232

Written by ricardo

May 2nd, 2016 at 8:37 am

Concentration Game

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AMNESIA: Match a Dictator

Play the memory game concentration with the portraits of dictators from across the globe in recent history. The memory game features illustrations of Stalin, Putin, Smith, Mugabe, Batista, Castro, King Idris, Gaddafi, Somoza, Ortega, Hirohito, Il-sung, the GOP and Dems. Test your dictator knowledge and see if you can identify the portraits! Play it multiple times to sharpen your memory.

“una geographia de ser” at Transitio_MX

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Opening this Friday, September 25th 2015 “a geography of being: una geografia de ser” as part of Transitio_MX, Festival de Artes Electrónicas y Video, on view through 4 October, National Center of the Arts, Mexico City. The festival consists of various exhibitions, workshops, lectures and discussions. “a geography of being: una geografia de ser” is part of the exhibition “play ? game [play[not]game] //más allá de la caja negra (beyond the black box)” curated by Brian Mackern.

Since 2005, The National Council for Culture and Arts, through the National Center of Arts and the Multimedia Center, has been organizing the Electronic Arts and Video Festival, Transitio_MX, which has become Mexico’s most important platform for expression and contemporary practices in artistic creation that are linked to technology, as well as hybrid productions created by the merge of art, science, technology and humanities.

Play “a geography of being: una geografia de ser” online or with Spanish subtitles.

a geography of being is an interactive art installation that reflects upon the dynamics of the undocumented immigrant population in the United States, specifically in relation to undocumented youth. The installation consists of wooden kinetic sculptures with animated displays titled “Undocumented Drones” and a video game that places the player in the role of an undocumented youth that must face several challenges in the search for self-determination beyond the imposed constraints of citizenry. The visitor to the installation plays the game, the “Undocumented Drones” react to game play and may help the player along. The installation was on view at The New York Hall of Science from October 27, 2012 to January 13th, 2013 as part of the exhibition ReGeneration.

The installation has been produced with the help of Cesar and Vishal, two young men who immigrated to the United States as young children. Their experiences and observations helped develop the game and determined the final goal of the game – self-determination. The conversations with Vishal and Cesar were incredibly revealing and extended the question of citizenry beyond civil status or politics to personal psychological realities. These are personal realities that effect friendships, romantic relationships as well as day to day life. For these two young men, a defining role has been that of activists and forming a powerful community in the New York State Youth Leadership Council.

Written by ricardo

September 24th, 2015 at 11:26 am