Could “we” then talk, dream, and coexist beyond species boundaries and our linear understanding of time? Who would “we” then become? And can artificial intelligences facilitate reciprocal learning – can they help us to better respect, even understand nonhuman consciousness? The exhibition AI ANCESTORS explores these questions, explores ways of being in interspecies alliance. The featured voices draw on decolonial, intersectional, trans- and ecofeminist approaches, non-Western and Indigenous ways of being and knowledge systems. Through body, poetry, and sound, they sound out animist myths in Tibet and co-authorship with AI, responding to audience members’ heartbeats, whispering poems from the future. Beyond the trivialisation or glorification of AI and transcending utopia and dystopia, AI ANCESTORS invites visitors to sense and become part of these futures today.
Curation: Rike Scheffler
Co-Curation: Mathias Zeiske
Project management: Birgit Voigt
For the exhibition opening on June 14, 2022, K Allado-McDowell will initiate a collective AI writing ritual via live feed from Los Angeles. Accompanied by sounds by musician Debashis Sinha and live visuals by artist Lucas Gutierrez, the audience in Berlin will transmit “poetic provocations” (keywords, metaphors, memories, verses, dreams) to Allado-McDowell via group chat. Allado-McDowell will then arrange these provocations into prompts – instructions for the artificial intelligence language model GPT-3. In keeping with the autocompletion modes typical of language AIs, Allado-McDowell will suggest a quasi-divinatory approach for the collective writing ritual, one in which language AI is seen as a gigantic deck of tarot cards. The result is a collaboratively-written, cybernetic poem, to be presented in this exhibition. The titular first prompt – The logocentric wound bleeds into a shared horizon of meaning – will also be on display. By opening up the AI cowriting process to a temporary, globally-scattered collective, a poem emerges, particularly marked by its moment of creation, pleasurably and playfully blurring the boundaries between authorship and audience and human and machine intelligence.
Louise Walleneit’s sentient sculpture bodycheck offers visitors surprising insights into other, unknown ways of being. Her sculpture’s reflective, seemingly impermeable walls respond to touch and proximity, beginning to breathe when they detect electromagnetic fields in their environment. The walls record what surrounds them and reflect how they perceive their surroundings through lively acoustic reverberations. But even the work’s nearby and invisible surrounding space (as well as the objects and people within it) are part of bodycheck. The experience of resonance with an object turns anthropocentric perspectives upside down, locating visitors in a nonhierarchical network of mutually-dependent living and nonliving actors. This makes the encounter itself an aesthetic practice, evoking a profound experience of interconnection. The more time they spend together, the more the sculpture’s and visitors’ heartbeats align.
bodycheck was supported by the Creative Fund of the Bauhaus University Weimar and a guest performance grant from the Kulturstiftung Sachsen.
In Rike Scheffler’s surround sound and video installation Lava. Ritual, poems from a speculative future community resound as echoes to us in the present. As in the children’s game of “telephone,” myths and cultural knowledge are transmitted and saved orally, across linguistic and species boundaries, from one living body to another through words, verses, and acoustic signals. In collaboration with the sound artist CROOK, the Icelandic photographer Gunnlöð Jóna and digital artist Arna Beth who created visuals with the gaming platform “Unreal Engine”, Scheffler forges a sensually immersive possible world deep in the queer, somatic in-between, where every life form is met with deference. Ecosystems, biota, and abiota are partners here, responding to questions that we as humans are only just daring to ask.
Lava. Ritual invites visitors to explore anew the relationship between belonging and listening, to become part of this future community and its poems by listening to, adopting, and carrying on its verses.
The video and sound installation As Grand As What by performance duo Hylozoic/Desires addresses the crucial role of rituals and their imagery in both social and ecological systems. Grounded in research about ancestral Himalayan healing rituals as well as a mandala that visualizes the Buddhist system of Kalachakra (Sanskrit for “wheel of time”), this immersive performance offers a new interpretation of this mystical geometry. Embedded in a three-channel video projection and a sound bath, a story about the search for a lost collective life force (bla, qi or prana) begins to unfold. A drummer calls upon li (a spiritual manifestation of human and nonhuman consciousness) to perform a series of remedying rituals and return bla into our bodies and the planet. A figure masked by a palm leaf embarks on a journey of grounding, circulation, and regeneration aligned with the body’s chakras (which in turn mirror the elements of nature). The figure flies back and forth between inner and outer wheels of time, reconnecting with the anima of the earth, healing us with the resonance of sound and the power of the word “love.”