Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

Archive for the ‘net_art’ 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.

Zach Blas Contra-Internet at Art in General

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Contra-Internet: Jubilee 2033 trailer from Zach Blas on Vimeo.

I had been looking forward to seeing Zach Blas’s Contra-Internet exhibition at Art in General, unfortunately it was not as engaging as I had hoped. The exhibition presents one single channel video installation that features the nearly 30 minute film “Jubilee 2033” and three other single-channel video works on monitors. The three video works on monitors present ideas and research regarding the internet – the hegemonic network of today and for the foreseeable future – through computer screen recordings by Blas. (I really hope that artists stop using screen-recordings of themselves clicking through files as a medium; it’s seldom interesting.)

Although I was disappointed by the exhibition, the gravity dance performance by Cassils as Nootropix, “a contra-sexual, contra internet prophet” is captivating an entirely worth the trip. The premise of the film is funny as it opens with Ayn Rand discussing the future of her ideas with two of her followers – Alan Greenspan and a fictional character Joan Mitchell. A young Greenspan proposes that the group take an acid trip. I was turned off by the highly accented performance of Rand and her cult, so I was glad to see them drop liquid acid.

As the trip begins, an internet connected artificial intelligence in the form of a manga character appears and takes them in to the future. The future is of course dystopian as the present reality burns and it’s certainly fun seeing the Google headquarters burning along with other tech companies in the not so distant future of 2033.

Nootropix triumphant performance

Along their travels, we encounter tech workers being taken hostage by “The Art Professor” wearing gray, paint-splattered coveralls and wielding a machine gun. Later in a classroom, the Art Professor introduces Nootropix (Cassils) who in their monologue states that they will perform the creation of gravity. The performance artist is powerful and their dance upon a purple matrix while dawning a large, erect, glowing CGI penis that is constantly spewing black liquid is awesome. The dance is mesmerizing and triumphant.

Nootropix triumphant performance

In Nootropix, Blas presents one of his contra-internet exotic creatures “to discover or create a world of network difference.” I could have entirely skipped the storyline, and merely be fantastically transported by Cassils’s character and performance as I think that it would have left me asking more questions and appreciating the mystery. We know that a network of difference is not plausible, so why not create the fantastic and shed the tedious philosophizing.

Nootropix triumphant performance

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.

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 the Video Game

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Ometepe the video game

In June 2013, the Nicaraguan National Assembly approved a bill conceding the financing, planning, construction and management of a cross-oceanic canal to the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company (HKND Group) headed by Chinese billionaire Wang Jing. The agreement spans an initial 50 years with the possibility of a second 50 years. The initial phase of construction began in December 2014 and the target year of completion is 2020. The agreement to this 40-50 billion US dollar project was discussed by the Nicaraguan National Assembly for only one week before approval. The agreement was not made public prior to the decision. The construction of the Nicaraguan Canal would entail the largest movement of earth in the planet’s history and would have immense ecological impact. The planned route of the canal would require the forced relocation of campesino communities.

To help bring attention to the Nicaraguan Canal, the video game Ometepe is set on the island of the same name, located in Lake Nicaragua through which the canal will pass. The island is formed by two volcanoes rising from Lake Nicaragua that are linked by low wetlands; Ometepe was officially declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2010. Although the canal project appears to be stopped due to lack of funds, the Nicaraguan government remains secretive about the project.

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.

Amnesia – a Card Matching Game

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Amnesia

I’m currently teaching myself Unity by reading through Unity in Action and as an initial finished project, I’ve built a card matching game that is covered in the fourth chapter of this book. I decided to utilize the dictator portraits that I’ve been creating for a print and animation series titled “Drunk with Power”. The game is available online, so test your memory by matching the 14 dictators illustrated onto the cards in the game “Amnesia”. In case you are not able to identify some of the portraits and would like to know who they are, the illustrated dictators are: Somoza, Ortega, Stalin, Putin, Idris, Gaddafi, Batista, Castro, Smith, Mugabe, Hirohito, Kim Il-sung, the GOP and the Dems.

I could not not include the United States of America. By placing the mascots of the U.S. Democratic and Republican parties amongst the portraits of Latin American, Soviet, African, Middle Eastern and East Asian dictators, the viewer is asked to question the concentration of political power within only two political parties and the ideologies that they expound. Excluded from power are any third parties and alternative political views or social movements. Through the recent victory of Citizens United (2010), the concentration of power has been fortified by unlimited corporate spending on political campaigns to influence elections. The passing of this Constitutional law is akin to the oligarchies represented by the rest of the portraits. Just as with the countries controlled by the depicted dictators, the United States is not a democracy. Play “Amnesia”! (The portraits look a lot better when played full-screen.)

Written by ricardo

December 2nd, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Who Is ISIS?

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Who Is ISIS?

Creatures filled with hatred toward other human beings.

Written by ricardo

November 24th, 2015 at 8:23 pm

audiophile at RedLine’s “Press Play” Exhibition

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audiophile (2001)

audiophile (2001) The software presents remixes of the sounds of the city, from Managua, Nicaragua to Mexico City to Manhattan

My 2001 net.art project “audiophile” is on view as part of the exhibition titled “Press Play” curated by Ruth Bruno and Cortney Lane Stell. “Press Play” is collaboratively produced between RedLine and Denver Arts & Venues. The exhibition is on view at McNichols Civic Center Building 144 West Colfax (corner of West Colfax and Bannock) from March 21st through June 28th.

Curators Stell and Bruno describe the conceptual premise of the “Press Play”:

“Rules of games, like those found in video games, imply ethical models or boundaries to be kept within in daily societal interactions and experiences. These parameters often structure our actions, perspectives, and worldviews. The artists in Press Play use these normative tools as structure, starting points, or forces to push against in their work. While some artworks explore conventional modes of structured play, other works use ruled play systems in order to subvert these conventional models of participation and competition.”

Participating Artists: Mark Amerika, Molly Bounds, Brody Condon, Milton Croissant III, Humberto Duque, Joseph Farbrook, Miltos Manetas, Eva and Franco Mattes, Alex Myers, Chad Person, and Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga.

HTML5 Sketch – “God Walks”

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Over the last couple of years, I’ve been doing small web sketches comprised of photos that I’ve shot and animations or illustrations that I’ve done. Since the Charlie Hebdo attack, I’ve been thinking about God or higher being in its most popular forms which lead to a visual idea that I quickly assembled. Below is the rotoscope loop of a male nude walking with a rotation of the heads of primary religious figures as popularly depicted. And here’s the gif embedded in an HTML page with music and 3d effects walking through digital space…

God Walks

God Walks

Written by ricardo

January 19th, 2015 at 12:14 pm