Portfolio

Presence

(March 2020) I was quarantining intensely during the coronavirus pandemic when Jen Kutler reached out to me asking if I would like to collaborate on a new work that simulates presence and attention over the network.  We have never met in real life, but we started talking on the internet every day. We eventually built a musical structure that implicates live webcam, endoscopic camera footage, biosensor data, sounds rearranged by biosensor data, ASMR roleplay and touch stimulation devices delivering small shocks to each artist. We developed this work at first through a month-long intensive online residency at SAW Video, while in conversation with many amazing artists, curators and creative people.

In Presence, artists Erin Gee and Jen Kutler reconfigure voice and touch across the internet through a haptic/physical feedback loop, using affective and physical telematics to structure an immersive electronic soundscape through physiological response.

Technical diagram for Presence, Erin Gee and Jen Kutler 2020

Presence is a telematic music composition for two bodies created during the Spring of 2020, at the height of confinement and social distancing during the COVID19 epidemic in Montreal and New York state. This work has been performed for online audiences by both artists while at home (Montreal/New York), featuring Gee and Kutler each attached to biosensors that collect the unconscious behaviours of their autonomic nervous systems, as well as touch simulation units that make this data tactile for each artist through transcutaneous nerve simulation.

Audiences are invited to listen attentively this networked session for physicalized affect through the sonification of each artists’ biodata, which also slowly triggers an ASMR roleplay that is actively reconfigured by the bodily reactions of each artist. Music and transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation is triggered by listening bodies: these bodies are triggered by the sounds and electric pulses, everything in the system is unconscious, triggering and triggered by each other through networked delays, but present. Through this musical intervention the artists invite the listeners to imagine the experience and implicate their own bodies in the networked transmission, to witness the artists touching the borders of themselves and their physical spaces while in isolation. 

Technical Credits

web socket for puredata (wspd) created for Presence by Michael Palumbo. Available on Github here.

Biodata circuitry and library created by Erin Gee. Available on Github here.

Electronic touch stimulation device for MIDI created by Jen Kutler. Available on Github here.

Performance built with a combination of puredata (data routing), Processing (biodata generated visuals), Ableton Live (sounds) and OBS (live telematics) by Erin Gee and Jen Kutler.

Performance and Exhibition History

SAW Video “Stay at Home” Residency March-April 2020

Network Music Festival July 17 2020

Fonderie Darling – As part of Allegorical Circuits for Human Software curated by Laurie Cotton Pigeon. August 13 2020

 

Machine Unlearning

Vision calibration from Machine Unlearning (2020). Photography by Elody Libe. Image courtesy of the artist.

In Machine Unlearning, the artist offers a neural conditioning treatment by whispering the unraveling outputs of an LSTM algorithm trained on Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights as the algorithm “forgets.” The combination of machine learning and ASMR draws parallels between autonomous algorithms and the autonomous functions of the human body.  Just as ASMRtists use specific sounds and visual patterns in their videos to “trigger” physical reactions in the user using stimuli, acting on the unconscious sensory processing of the listener as they watch the video, the algorithm also unconsciously responds to patterns perceived by its limited senses in order to develop its learning (and unlearning) processes.

Credits: Photography and videography by Elody Libe.

Production Support: Machine Unlearning video installation was produced at Perte de Signal with the support of the MacKenzie Art Gallery for the exhibition To the Sooe (2020) curated by Tak Pham.

The roleplay performance was developed during my artistic residency at Locus SonusÉcole Superieur d’art d’Aix en Provence and Laboratoire PRISM.

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The use of the word “intelligence” in the metaphor of AI focuses on higher functions of consciousness that algorithms do not possess. While algorithms have not meaningfully achieved a humanistic consciousness to date, today’s algorithms act autonomously on sensory information, processing data from its environment in unconscious, automatic ways. The human brain also responds unconsciously and automatically to sensory data in its environment, for example, even if you are not conscious of how hot a stove is, if you place your hand on a hot stove, your hand will automatically pull away. These unconscious, physiological actions in the sensory realm points to an area of common experience between algorithms and the human.  For more explanation of these ideas, take a look at the work of postmodern literary critic N. Katherine Hayles in her 2017 book Unthought: The power of the cognitive nonconscious.  In this way I wonder if the expression “autonomous intelligence” makes more sense than “artificial intelligence”, however like posthumanist feminist Rosi Braidotti I am deeply suspicious of the humanist pride that our species takes in the word “intelligence” as something that confers a special status and justification for domination of other forms of life on earth.

Live Performance

This work was first developed as a performance that debuted at Cluster Festival, Winnipeg in 2019.  During live performance, each audience member dons a pair of wireless headphones.  The performance allows the audience members to see the ASMR “result” of the performance for camera, simultaneous with the ability to see my “backstage” manipulation of props and light in real time.

Machine Unlearning (2019) Performance at Cluster Festival, Winnipeg. Photo: Leif Norman.

Machine Unlearning (2019) Performance at Cluster Festival, Winnipeg. Photo: Leif Norman.

Machine Unlearning (2019) Performance at Cluster Festival, Winnipeg. Photo: Leif Norman.

LAUGHING WEB DOT SPACE

An interactive website and virtual laugh-in for survivors of sexual violence.

The URL: https://laughingweb.space

This website enables survivors to record and listen to the sounds of their laughter, and through the magic of the internet, laugh together. Visitors of any gender that self-identify as survivors are invited to use the website’s interface to record their laughter and join in: no questions asked. Visitors can also listen to previously recorded laughter on loop.

Why laughter? Laughter is infectious, and borne of the air we still breathe. We laugh in joy. We laugh in bitterness. We laugh awkwardly. We laugh in relief. We laugh in anxiety. We laugh because it is helpful for laugh. We laugh because it might help someone else. Laughing is good for our health: soothing stress, strengthening the immune system, and easing pain. Through laughter, we proclaim ourselves as more complex than the traumatic memories that we live with. Our voices echo, and will reverberate in the homes, public places, and headphones of whoever visits.

The site is officially launched on October 3rd, 2018!

Dedicated to Cheryl L’hirondelle

This project was commissioned by Eastern Bloc (Montreal) on the occasion of their 10th anniversary exhibition. For this exhibition, Eastern Bloc invited the exhibiting media artists to present work while thinking of linkages to Canadian media artists that inspired them when they were young. I’m extremely honored and grateful for the conversations that Cheryl L’hirondelle shared with me while I was developing this project.

When I was just beginning to dabble in media art in art school, the net-based artworks of Cheryl L’hirondelle demonstrated to me the power of combining art with sound and songwriting, community building, and other gestures of solidarity, on the internet. Exposure to her work was meaningful to me – I was looking for examples of other women using their voices with technology. Skawennati is another great artist that was creating participative web works in the late 90s and early 2000s – you can check out her cyberpowwow here.

Click here to visit Laughing Web Dot Space

Credits

Graphic Design – Laura Lalonde
Backend Programming – Sofian Audry, Conan Lai, Ismail Negm
Frontend Programming- Koumbit

Special thank you to Kai-Cheng Thom, who with wisdom, grace, and passion guided me through many stages of this work’s development.

Exhibition History/Upcoming

October 3 -23, 2018 – Eastern Bloc, Montreal. Curated by Eliane Ellbogen

February 16, 2019 –The Feminist Art Project @ CAA Conference – Trianon Ballroom, Hilton NYC.

February 2019 – Her EnvironmentYards Gallery, Chicago. Curated by Chelsea Welch and Iryne Roh.

June 26 to August 11, 2019. SESI Arte Galeria, FILE festival, São Paulo, Brazil.

Reviews/Interviews

(2019) https://chiartshub.com/2019/01/27/review-entanglements-forces-us-to-consider-our-relationship-to-technology/

Fields, Noa/h. (2019). “Dangling Wires: Artists Examine Relationship with Technology in Entanglements.” Scapi Magazine (Chicago). https://scapimag.com/2019/02/05/dangling-wires-artists-examine-relationship-with-technology-in-entanglements/

Fournier, Lauren (2018). “Our Collective Nervous System.” Canadian Art. https://canadianart.ca/interviews/our-collective-nervous-system/

Berson, Amber (2018). “Amplification” Canadian Art. REVIEWS / OCTOBER 23, 2018. https://canadianart.ca/reviews/amplification/

to the sooe

A 3D printed sound object that houses a human voice murmuring the words of a neural network trained by a deceased author.

to the sooe (SLS 3D printed object, electronics, laser-etched acrylic, audio, 2018) is the second piece in a body of work Erin Gee made in collaboration with artist Sofian Audry that explores the material and authorial agencies of a deceased author, a LSTM algorithm, and an ASMR performer.

The work in this series transmits the aesthetics of an AI “voice” that speaks through outputted text through the sounds of Gee’s softly spoken human vocals, using a human body as a relatively low-tech filter for processes of machine automation.  Other works in this series include of the soone (2018), and Machine Unlearning (2018-2019)

to the sooe is a sound object that features a binaural recording of Erin Gee’s voice as she re-articulates the murmurs of a machine learning algorithm learning to speak. Through this work, the artists re-embody the cognitive processes and creative voices of three agents (a deceased author, a deep learning neural net, and an ASMR performer) into a tangible device. These human and nonhuman agencies are materialized in the object through speaking and writing: a disembodied human voice, words etched onto a mirrored, acrylic surface, as well as code written into the device’s silicon memory.

The algorithmic process used in this work is a deep recurrent neural network agent known as “long short term memory” (LSTM). The algorithm “reads” Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights character by character, familiarizing itself with the syntactical universe of the text. As it reads and re-reads the book, it attempts to mimic Brontë’s style within the constraints of its own artificial “body”, hence finding its own alien voice.

 

The reading of this AI-generated text by a human speaker allows the listener to experience simultaneously the neural network agent’s linguistic journey as well as the augmentation of this speech through vocalization techniques adapted from Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR). ASMR involves the use of acoustic “triggers” such as gentle whispering, fingers scratching or tapping, in an attempt to induce tingling sensations and pleasurable auditory-tactile synaesthesia in the user. Through these autonomous physiological experiences, the artists hope to reveal the autonomous nature of the listener’s own body, implying the listener as an already-cyborgian aspect of the hybrid system in place.

Exhibition History

Taking Care – Hexagram Campus Exhibition @ Ars Electronica, Linz Sept 5-11 2018. Curated by Ana Kerekes.

Printemps Numérique – McCord Museum Montreal, May 29-June 3 2019. Curated by Erandy Vergara.

To the Sooe – MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina January 26-April 26, 2020. Curated by Tak Pham.

Credits

Sofian Audry – neural network programming and training

Erin Gee – vocal performer, audio recording and editing, electronics

Grégory Perrin – 3D printing design and laser etching

of the soone

A disembodied voice invites the listener to partake in a speculative audio treatment that promises to awaken underdeveloped neural passageways through exposure to the non-human processes of neural network language acquisition.

In this work, media artists Erin Gee and Sofian Audry expose listeners to the architectures of an artificial intelligence algorithm through the sounds of an Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) roleplay. ASMR is a genre of audio and videomaking developed by internet aficionados interested in using specific everyday sounds (whispering, soft voice, crinkling and textured sounds) alongside verbal suggestion to “trigger” pleasant tingling reactions in the body of the listener. The artists combined these ASMR principles of sound with artificial intelligence to create a speculative neural conditioning treatment. In of the soone, the listener encounters a soft female voice that whispers a script written by a machine learning algorithm as it slowly loses its neural training and “forgets.” This combination of algorithmic text and ASMR connects the unconscious, automatic processes of artificial intelligence algorithms to the autonomous reactions of the human body to sound, using intimacy to “hack” into the subconscious of the human listener and recondition neural pathways.

Exhibition History:

October 2020: Digital Cultures: Imagined Futures Audio Programme curated by Joseph Cutts. Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Warszawa Poland

June 9 to August 19, 2018: Pendoran Vinci. Art and Artificial Intelligence Today  curated by Peggy Schoenegge and Tina Sauerländer. NRW Forum, Düsseldorf, Germany

January 2018: Her Environment @ TCC Gallery, Chicago

 

text 2018. Courtesy of artists.

Project H.E.A.R.T.

A biodata-driven VR game where militainment and pop music fuel a new form of emotional drone warfare.

A twist on popular “militainment” shooter video games, Project H.E.A.R.T. invites the viewer to place their fingers on a custom biodata device, and summon their enthusiasm to engage their avatar, Yowane Haku, in “combat therapy.” Fans of the Vocaloid characters may recognize Haku as the “bad copy” of Japanese pop celebrity Hatsune Miku, a holographic personnage that invites her fans to pour their content and songs into her virtual voice.

The biosensing system features a pulse sensor, and a skin conductance sensor of Gee’s design. Through principles of emotional physiology and affective computing, the device gathers data relative to heart rate and blood flow from index finger, and skin conductance from middle and ring fingers of users. The biodata is read by a microcontroller and transferred to Unity VR, thus facilitating emotional interactivity: a user’s enthusiasm (spikes in signal amplitude in skin conductance, elevated heart rate, and shifts in amplitude of the pulse signal) stimulates the holographic pop star to sing in the virtual warzone, thus inspiring military fighters to continue the war, and create more enemy casualties. At the end of the experience the user is confronted with their “score” of traumatized soldiers vs enemies killed, with no information whether this means that they won or lost the “game”.

The user is thus challenged to navigate soldier’s emotional anxieties and summon their positivity to activate Haku’s singing voice as soldiers battle not only against a group of enemies, but also against their own lack of confidence in times of global economic instability.

The landscape of Project H.E.A.R.T. was built from geopolitically resonant sites found on Google Maps, creating a dreamlike background for the warzone. In-game dialogue wavers between self-righteous soldier banter typical of video games, and self-help, bringing the VR participant to an interrogation of their own emotional body in a virtual space that conflates war, pop music, drone technology, and perhaps movement-induced VR nausea.

 

 

As Kathryn Hamilton pointed out in her 2017 essay “Voyeur Realism” for New Inquiry,

“VR’s genesis and development is in the military, where it has been used to train soldiers in “battle readiness,” a euphemism for: methods to overcome the innate human resistance to firing at another human being. In the last few years, VR’s usage has shifted 180 degrees from a technology used to train soldiers for war, to one that claims to “amplify” the voices afflicted by war, and to affect “world influencers” who might be able to stop said wars.”

Photography by Toni Hafkenscheid.  Images of Worldbuilding exhibition courtesy of Trinity Square Video, 2017.

Exhibition history:
November-December 2017 Worldbuilding @ Trinity Square Video, Toronto
February-March 2018 Future Perfect @ Hygienic Gallery, New London Connecticut
April 26-28, 2018 @ Toronto Digifest, Toronto
June 7-17, 2019 @ Elektra Festival, Montreal

Credits

Narrative Design: Sofian Audry, Roxanne Baril-Bédard, Erin Gee

3D Art: Alex Lee and Marlon Kroll

Animation and Rigging: Nicklas Kenyon and Alex Lee

VFX: Anthony Damiani, Erin Gee, Nicklas Kenyon

Programming: Sofian Audry, Erin Gee, Nicklas Kenyon, Jacob Morin

AI Design: Sofian Audry

Sound Design: Erin Gee, Austin Haughton, Ben Hinckley, Ben Leavitt, Nicolas Ow

BioSensor Hardware Design: Erin Gee and Martin Peach

BioSensor Case Design: Grégory Perrin

BioSensor Hardware Programming: Thomas Ouellet Fredericks, Erin Gee, Martin Peach

Featuring music by Lazerblade, Night Chaser and Austin Haughton

Yowane Haku character designed by CAFFEIN

Yowane Haku Cyber model originally created by SEGA for Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA 2nd (2010)

Project H.E.A.R.T. also features the vocal acting talents of Erin Gee, Danny Gold, Alex Lee, Ben McCarthy, Gregory Muszkie, James O’Calloghan, and Henry Adam Svec.

Thanks to the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and AMD Radeon, this project was commissioned by Trinity Square Video for the exhibition Worldbuilding, curated by John G Hampton and Maiko Tanaka.

This project would have not been possible without the logistical and technical support of the following organizations:

Technoculture Art and Games Lab (Concordia University)

Concordia University

ASAP Media Services (University of Maine)

BioSolo

Using the BioSynth, I improvised a set for my breath/voice and my sonified heart and sweat release at No Hay Banda in an evening that also featured the very interesting work of composer Vinko Globokar (Russia).  The improvisation is very sparing, the goal is to exploit interesting rhythmic moments between heavy breath-song and the heartbeat, all the while exploring limits of respiratory activity and seeing what effect it has on my physiology.

Photography: Wren Noble

BioSolo was first performed at No Hay Banda series in Montreal at La Sala Rossa, organized by Daniel Àñez and Noam Bierstone.

Echo Grey

Echo Grey is a composition for four voices, feedback musical instruments, and tape part (which features the sounds of a broken image file).

World premiere at Vancouver New Music with Andrea Young, Marina Hasselberg, Sharon Chohi Kim, Micaela Tobin, Michael Day, Braden Diotte, and Erin Gee in November 2016. It has also been performed at Open Space Gallery (Victoria), and Neworks (Calgary).

Movement between words or utterance, the echo’s voice exceeds the signal itself and speaks to a deeper engagement with materiality.  In Echo Grey, I composed a series of vocal patterns that emerge directly with breath as raw material, the movement of intake and exhalation made audible. The choir’s engagement with the mechanistic, impossible repetition eventually negates the signal: all that is left is the lungs and vocal vibrations of the individual who gasps, cries in defeat, and whoops in ecstasy.  These human voices are simultaneously punctuated by the feedback of microphone and amplified instruments, and a tape track composed through process – a bouncing of data back and forth between visual and aural softwares that eventually results in nothing but glitched statements.  This tape track is analogous to the squealing proximity of the sender to the receiver in the scored feedback parts.  The colour grey in the work’s title is inspired by the back and forth motion of a 2HB pencil stroking endlessly across an empty pad of paper.

Echo Grey 2016

 

 

Song of Seven

A composition for children’s choir featuring seven voices and seven sets of biodata with piano accompaniment.

In this song, young performers contemplate an emotional time in their lives, and recount this memory as an improvised vocal solo.The choir is instructed to enter into a meditative state during these emotional solos, deeply listening to the tale and empathizing with the soloist, using imagination to recreate the scene.  Choir members are attached to a musical instrument I call the BioSynth a small synthesizer that sonifies heartbeats and sweat release for each individual member to pre-programmed tones. Sweat release, often acknowledged as a robust measure of emotional engagement, is signaled by overtones that appear and reappear over a drone; meanwhile the heartbeats of each chorister are sounded according to blood flow, providing a light percussion.

The musical score combines traditional music notation with vocal games and rhythms determined not necessarily by the conductor or score but by beatings of the heart and bursts of sweat. Discreet flashing lights on the synthesizer boxes in front of the choristers allowed the singers to discern the rhythms and patterns of their heart and sweat glands, which therefore permits compositions to incorporate the rhythms of the body into the final score as markers that trigger sonic events.

This choral composition was workshopped over a one-week residency at the LIVELab (McMaster University) with selected members of the Hamilton Children’s Choir, and facilitated by Hamilton Artists Inc. with support from the Canada Council for the Arts.

For more information

Hamilton Children's Choir
Daniel Àñez (Spanish biography)
Hamilton Artists' Inc
LIVElab
Canada Council for the Arts

Piano accompanist: Daniel Àñez
Hardware design: Martin Peach
Software design: Erin Gee

Partitions1

Erin Gee - Larynx Series

Larynx Series

Larynx1, Larynx2, Larynx3, Larynx4 (2014)

Epson UltraChrome K3 ink on acid-free paper.

Edition of 5.

86 x 112 cm.

Communication is a collaborative process between listener and speaker that implicates both their sensory bodies. In consideration of what Roland Barthes called the “grain” of the voice, I think about how contemporary technological tools listen to and reproduce this naturalized, sonorous voice, concretize it, compress it, amplify it, and sometimes distort it. What we consider our voice in a technologically mediated environment is a visual-vocal-technological assemblage that implicates amplification, scale, human and digital bodies and networks. The multiplication and proliferation of voice on someone else’s device happens in asynchronous ways, much the same as a vocal score is a vocal performance that lay crystalized and dormant until activated by human action. 

This series of printed works is a set of vocal quartets created from the original material of the human voice, the larynx, which was amplified/reproduced/echoed through visual perception processes in machine and human cognizers and re-performed by multiple human singers. In endoscopic photography the flesh material of the larynx is extended through the sensory mechanisms of a machine. Light bounces off the flesh of the larynx and is interpreted by a camera as pixel data. This digital image is made of raster pixels faithful to their fleshy origins but limited in detail. If one amplifies the raster image of the voice (zoom) the image reveals its materiality as a technical assemblage. I transformed the raster image into a vector in order to continue playing with bouncing machine processes off one another to “voice” how a machine might perceive this human larynx. While the rasterization process I used eliminated the fleshy details of the original larynx, the image emphasized original architectural structures of the larynx, which now more closely resembled a topographical map, or circuit board. This technologically processed version of the larynx could be infinitely amplified or diminished without loss or distortion. At this point I detected an unexpected feature: my associative, human perception could see markings that resembled Western notation at the edges of this transformed image of the human voice, complete with staves, bar lines and notes. My transcription process included dividing each bar into four equal parts, and then transcribing rhythms in a linear relationship to where the small note-like marks were present horizontally in common 4/4 time.  Pitches were interpreted as they appeared vertically on the abstracted staves. 

Since there exist four sides to each two-dimensional image, there were four staves for each representation of the larynx in the series. I set this music into four separate vocal partitions for choral song: returning this technologically amplified process of voicing back into multiple human throats.

Exhibition/Performance history:
(Performance) Tellings: A Posthuman Vocal Concert. Toronto Biennial. Curated by Myung-Sun Kim and Maiko Tanaka.
Vocales Digitales – Solo exhibition. March 26 – May 14 2016, Hamilton Artists’ Inc.: Hamilton, Canada. Curated by Caitlin Sutherland.
(Premiere Performance) Rhubarb, Rhubarb, peas and carrots. July 17-September 5, 2015. Dunlop Art Gallery: Regina, Canada. Curated by Blair Fornwald.
Erin Gee and Kelly Andres. August 25 – October 24, 2014. Cirque du Soleil Headquarters: Montreal, Canada. Curated by Eliane Elbogen.
Collections
Larynx3 (edition 1/5) was purchased by the Saskatchewan Arts Board for their permanent collection in 2019.

Exhibition/Performance history:

Toronto Biennial (upcoming) November 2019.

Vocales Digitales (Solo Exhibition), 2016. Hamilton Artists’ Inc. Hamilton, Canada. Curated by Caitlin Sutherland.

Rhubarb, rhubarb, peas and carrots, 2015. Dunlop Art Gallery. Regina, Canada. Curated by Blair Fornwald. Larynx Songs premiered with singers Erin Gee, Carrie Smith, Kristen Smith, and Kaitlin Semple.

Erin Gee and Kelly Andres. Cirque du Soleil Headquarters, Montreal Canada. Curated by Eliane Elbogen.

Voice of Echo (Solo Exhibition), 2014. Gallerywest. Toronto, Canada. Curated by Evan Tyler.