to the sooe Tag

ASAP Journal

Happy to announce that my short article on machine learning, ASMR and sound “Automation as Echo” written with Sofian Audry is now published in ASAP/Journal 4.2 in a collection of articles assembled by Jennifer Rhee covering automation from diverse/creative/critical perspectives.

From the article:

“The echo is a metaphor that goes beyond sound, speaking to the physical and temporal gaps in human-computer interaction that open up a space of aesthetic consumption problematized by the impossibility of comprehending machine perspectives on human terms. The echo unfolds in time, but most importantly it unfolds in space: sound travels as a physical interaction between a subject and an object that seemingly “speaks back.”

The mythological nymph Echo “speaks” or “performs” her subjectivity through reflection or imitation of the voice of human Narcissus. Her (incomplete, sometimes humorous, sometimes uncannily resemblant) nonhuman voice is dependent on the human subject, who is also the progenitor of her speech. The relationship between these two mythological entities creates an apt metaphor for machine learning: its processes are not of the human, yet its “neural” functions are crafted in imitation of and in response to human thought. As machine subjectivity is crafted from human subjectivity, we cannot grasp its machined voice, nor perceive its subjective position, through analysis of its various textual, sonic, visual, and robotic outputs alone. Rather, the “voice” of machine learning is fleeting, heard through the spaces, the gaps, the movements between the machine and the human, the vibrational color of nonhuman noise.”

ABOUT ASAP JOURNAL

ASAP/Journal is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal published by John Hopkins University Press that explores new developments in post-1960s visual, media, literary, and performance arts. The scholarly publication of ASAP: The Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present, ASAP/Journal promotes intellectual exchange between artists and critics across the arts and humanities. The journal publishes methodologically cutting-edge, conceptually adventurous, and historically nuanced research about the arts of the present.

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

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

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

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