“You are the music whilst the music lasts.” – T.S. Eliot
The subject matter I have chosen for the degree show and as focus of my art practice are subjects that seemingly everyone has an opinion about. They are popular subjects, they are often predominant themes in books, films, news and art. This is not why I chose to be interested in them. But the fact allows me to spread my wings in terms of scope of research. I am able to look to the future or past in a multitude of genres and find stimulus to ignite my ideas. I can escape the everyday in a movie or pick up a math textbook and find relevance.
The subjects of both artificial intelligence and consciousness exist where ever people have and continue to exist. They are profound and relevant subjects that nourish my mind, pique my curiosity, challenge me intellectually and further my understanding of myself and of the human condition.
Below is a sample of the influences that helped me approach my end of year presentation as part of my Bachelor’s degree in fine art at Suffolk University.
In Decision Space Schmieg looked at the problem of the “hidden manual labour” behind image classification for datasets such as Image Net. Datasets that go on to be used in image classification algorithms that inform neural networks. Decision Space also brings to light the inherent bias that is embedded into the algorithms at the point of human classification. Schmieg asked visitors to the gallery website to classify images into categories, with the result being an image classifier dataset that could be used by neural networks for machine learning problems.
This dataset was then used by Schmieg in a further piece Is this the Problem, the solution, the Past and the Future that allowed a neural network intelligence, monitor the state of a gallery by classifying images and people in the gallery space as they appeared. Using the same image classifying categories that were used in Decision Space (Images were classified as: Problem, Solution, Past and Future).
I was drawn to Archangel, an American post-conceptual artist who has created works using video game technology, by the simplicity of the computer generated visual loops such as Super Mario Clouds, 2002. Extracting the simple yet elegant backdrops, alters their meaning and offers a chance to consider these now seemingly primitive (by modern day graphic standards) visuals in another light.
Watching the 8-bit clouds scroll by on the blue sky simulation assists in interpreting a complex relationship to contemporary existence. It opens up a dialogue with me in regard to that pursuit of watching the clouds roll by on a summer day. To contemplation. To question the real and the imaginary. It leads me to question the use of my own time and agency. Which I appreciate to be a useful function.
In my own work I attempt to create a catalyst (or an excuse) for the viewer, to reach that higher function of intellectual space. A space that contemporary society has belittled. I take for granted that viewers are able to achieve a state of reflection and contemplation and I serve only to facilitate that transition from the quotidian to the contemplative.
Maurice Conti an engineer working in a practical field of experimentation within robotics and machine learning. As well as speaking publicly (TED) about the research conducted and visions for an integrated data point system.
“You know you exist because the narrative exhibits you as a protagonist in the act of knowing.” – Antonio Damasio
Although their approach to the subject of consciousness differs, as do the messages. The importance of the subject is emphasised and all share in agreement that consciousness is in itself the pillar that we as individuals derive meaning and value from our world.
John Searle a staunch believer in the biological roots to the questions that arise when appreciating consciousness. “The study of this most mysterious phenomena should be subjected to a scientific analysis as much as any other phenomena, biological or otherwise.” (Searle)
Daniel Dennett wants to empirically prove that consciousness is an illusion, a neurological infinite of separateness that coalesces into a single sentience. “Real magic in other words refers to the magic that is not real (supernatural powers, miracles). While magic that is real (conjuring tricks, illusions), is not real magic”. (Dennett)
Antonio Damasio a clinical neurobiologist and empiricist wants to examine consciousness from an emotional perspective. “What can be more dizzying than to realise that it is our having consciousness which makes it possible and even inevitable our questions about consciousness.” (Damasio)
Practical research in the field of artificial intelligence
Due to my interest and desire to include artificial intelligence into my art practice. I have begun to experiment with and research both the science and mathematics that are utilised by professionals working in this field. I have taken basic courses in computer programming as a means to understanding and amending code. As well as familiarising myself with projects and tools such as Tensor Flow, used by professional data scientists with the aim of creating machine learning applications.
Although I am interested in these subjects independently of my art practice. I realise however they are not to everyone’s tastes and can be rather dry to read about. Which leads me to omit the technical research. Although I have begun to compile a compendium of information for those who would wish to explore this subject.
Carter, R. (2002) Consciousness. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Damasio, A.R. (2000) The feeling of what happens: body, emotion and the making of consciousness. London: Vintage.
Dennett, D.C. (1991) Consciousness explained. London: Penguin.
Searle, J.R. (1996) The construction of social reality. London: Penguin Books.