Wuthering Heights Tag

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.

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.