The winners

Re:Humanism 2

1 PRIZE | ENTANGLED OTHERS | BENEATH THE NEURAL WAVES 2.0

How can we dream up new ecosystems? Can doing so help us understand the concept of always existing in relationship to others? Beneath the Neural Waves 2.0 explores biodiversity through an attempt at creating (digitally) an aquatic ecosystem as a means of attempting to engage with the very abstract concept of relationship. The choice of specifically the coral reef was due to our belief that these ecosystems are the perfect example of how interconnectedness occurs in the natural world. No one creature is the core component of the reef; instead, it emerges from the interwoven whole of all the individual component species. Entangled Others uses deep learning to take a contemporary approach to pattern extraction. It facilitates extracting three-dimensional patterns (output from 3D GANs) from nature and rearranging them to envision new speculative worlds. As a whole, the physical artefact and its digital extension, reach out towards the complex entanglement of natural life, both with itself and others. The sculptural body will be accompanied by a generative oceanic sound in collaboration with the sound artist TBD.

Entangled Others is the shared studio practice of artists Feileacan McCormick and Sofia Crespo. Their work focuses upon ecology, nature and generative arts, with a focus on giving the more-than-human new forms of presence and life in digital space. Exploring questions of relationship, biodiversity, and awareness through biology-inspired technologies. In turn, highlighting how through conscious efforts new technology can be used to bring attention and awareness to the unseen that we are tightly interwoven with.

PHOTO CAPTION: Entangled Others, Beneath the Neural Waves 2.0, (in progress)

2 PRIZE | IRENE FENARA | THREE THOUSAND TIGERS

In the collective imagination the figure of the tiger represents a pervasive image, a powerful symbol, almost the archetype par excellence of animal and natural world and seems to be everywhere: from the logos of fashion houses to cereal boxes, on t-shirts, too. However, there are more images in the world representing tigers than real living tigers. To learn how to recognize and reproduce images in turn, a generative algorithm would need millions of images; by proposing fewer of them, the results move significantly away from the real. Working with such an algorithm, Irene Fenara creates images of animals that arise from the union of three thousand images of tigers – the current number of living tigers – that ultimately retain only some of the original characteristics of the animal. It is not only a reflection on natural change but also on the change in the state of images: generating and reproducing remains the only way to save against natural extinction – as from digital extinction – think of file playback and how they lose quality over time and with the progress of computers and software. The formal rendering in the form of tapestries refers, then, both to the improper use of animal skins as carpets, in certain fashionable houses, and to the similar mode in which weaving and algorithm work: the texture and warp, in fact, move on the frame like the strings of code that process. In an attempt to increase the digital fauna of an endangered animal, Three Thousand Tigers reflects on the linguistic parallelism between the natural world and image production, paradoxically trying to save a species.

Irene Fenara (1990) is graduated in Sculpture and Visual Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, Italy. Her research explores the gesture at the basis of every photographic operation: looking. In particular she observes, investigates and interprets the way machines look. Her work has been exhibited in public and private institutions such as Fondazione Prada Osservatorio (2016), Milan; Fondazione Fotografia Modena (2017); MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna (2018); Palazzo delle Esposizioni (2018), Rome; Fondazione Francesco Fabbri (2018), Pieve di Soligo (TV); Kunst Merano Arte (2019), Merano (BZ) and Villa Merkel Esslingen (2020).

PHOTO CAPTION: Irene Fenara, Three Thousand Tigers, 2020, handmade wool tapestry, 300 x 200 cm, Courtesy the artist and UNA Galleria. Photo by Marco Fava

3 PRIZE | YUGUANG ZHANG | (NON-)HUMAN: THE MOVING BEDSHEET

What is human, what is not human, what is in-between? (Non-)Human: The Mooving Bedsheet is an art installation that conjures the hidden humanness in objects and imagines, a speculative world where a human exists in non-human forms. We live a life surrounded by objects we build to serve us: curtains, lamps, and many others. We use our body to interact with these objects rubbing our face against warm towels, or sinking into a fluffy bed. We, as humans, rarely consider them to be part of us. We tend to think of ourselves as different, we’re the ones with spirituality, reason, intelligence, while they’re not. The advancements in modern physics have pointed out the similarity between humans and objects in terms of materiality. Emerging technology such as ML/AI has shown the promise of non-human intelligence through computation. More than ever, the borderline between human and object has become blurred. If there is a spectrum that measures the level of Human-ness vs. Object-ness, what lies in the middle ground? How close might an object endowed with a certain level of intelligence or consciousness be to a human?As a response, (Non-)Human: The Mooving Bedsheet is a series of art installations that explore the semi-human, semi-object territory by creating humans in non-human forms. The initial piece of this series is a bedsheet that tweaks and bends in the form of its owner, now up and out for the day. The project concept is based on research in three domains: discoveries in physics and cosmology regarding the origin of life and human; the philosophical notions about our relationship of consciousness to the universe as a whole; and related religious roots. (Non-)Human: The Mooving Bedsheet is the result of approaching this topic from a technological perspective within this big picture, especially by using technology as a bridge to connect human behaviours with object behaviours.

Yuguang (YG) Zhang is a New York-based creative technologist, new media artist and a research resident of the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at New York University. An ex-software product manager and artistic director, his current practice, which incorporates interactive media, installation, and live performance, explores the reciprocal relationship between human and technology, the connections we make with tangibleand intangible AI systems, and the cultural and ethical shifts that come along. His works have been showcased at NeurIPS, ML x Art, the NYC Media Lab, New Inc., CultureHub, Movement Research, Battery Dance Festival, The Center at West Park, Processing Foundation, Re- Work Deep Learning Summit, Cycling ‘74 Expo, Fu:bar, B·O·N·D and more.

PHOTO CAPTION: Yuguang Zhang, (Non-)Human: The Mooving Bedsheet, (in progress)

FINALIST | ELIZABETH BOWIE CHRISTOFORETTI & ROMY EL SAYAH | BODY AS BUILDING

Since the Renaissance and the birth of modern architecture, from the definitive writing of Alberti to contemporary Starchitect production, the architect has been the individual, authorial agent of the built form that hosts our lives together. As we move into an era of machine intelligence, authorship is unstable, driven by immediate digital access to the cultural history of humanity and the capacity for a new mode of machine-augmented creative production. This project opens up creative architectural production to imagine a new era of design of the built environment in which any individual may have an authorial stake in the imagination and production of their built context. In this project, anybody may be cast as building; collectively, the production of this work will make up a new type of urbanism, a neighbourhood and place that is imagined as a direct translation of the accumulative identity of its inhabitants. The identity, role, and agency of the designer are scrambled into a new set of horizontal relationships, having slipped out of its historical top-down orientation. In this new form of design production, the architect produces a (machine learning) model rather than a maquette, radically transforming the identity and role of “the designer” in relation to society and enabling many open-ended outcomes rather than a single predetermined work. Authorship of any individual work is hybrid–a collaboration between architect, machine, and the stakeholder body. The home is an extension of the body and the work of architecture is a gestalt grouping of bodies, a scalable system of augmented creativity, identity, and physicality. The project, Body as Building, reveals itself as a changing set of body-home “neighbourhoods”. A fixed centre will receive and transfer visitor visages into unique body-homes, which will continuously accumulate into a growing and flexible collective identity processed by artificial intelligence.

Elizabeth Bowie Christoforetti (1978) is the founding principal at Supernormal, a design and research practice based in Cambridge, MA. Supernormal’s work focuses on the design of form and processes that balance contextual and cultural relevance with the contemporary imperative to scale beyond a single instance, and to reach more people and urban places. She is also Assistant Professor in the Practice of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she is a principal investigator within the Laboratory for Design Technologies. Her work in both academia and practice explores the deep cultural, typological, and process-based implications of large data sets and scalable systems in the design of the built environment; recent and ongoing work focuses these potentials in relationship to innovations in housing design and the future of architectural design practice.

Romy El Sayah (1993) is a designer, artist and technologist based in Boston, MA. Her work involves experimenting with new media to bridge the space between the physical and the digital. She recently graduated with a Master in “Design Studies in Technology” from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she learnt computational design, machine learning tools and interactive media. Passionate about participatory futures and collective creativity, she loves to explore these fields through speculation and computation. Since graduating, she has held a research position at the Laboratory for Design Technologies and a design position at MathWorks where she is developing educational tools around the topic of bias in Data Science models.

PHOTO CAPTION: Building image and corollary ML model generated by Elizabeth Christoforetti and Romy El Sayah

FINALIST | CAROLA BONFILI | THE FLUTE-SINGING

The Flute-Singing is a CGI-modeled video that tells the life of a mythological creature, prior to his role in a video game. The project is intended as a spin-off of the story of one of the creatures presents in a wider project, Second Order Reality, a video-game currently in progress, that plans to meld videogame techniques with states of introspection that concern the intimate perception of one’s own body and immediate surroundings. The work interprets the landscapes and symbologies of a range of different texts, including The Temptation of St. Anthony by Gustave Flaubert and The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells. Although the creature’s appearance recalls that of a fantastic being, alien, or a hybrid fruit of some experiment, its interiority reflects the spirit of an existentialist and melancholic character. In the memories of this creature, there are traces of narrations of some figures present in the Metamorphoses of Ovid, such as Procris, Scylla, Arachne or Salmacis. The classical narrative construction of the Metamorphoses is dismembered within an AI program designed for role-playing games. The different stories – as well as different inputs inserted as impromptu responses to the reaction of the program – are used to influence the software, which in turn builds other responses, based on predetermined algorithms that have the purpose of constructing plausible stories. This material will be used to outline the psychological profile of a creature who feels nostalgia but does not know what for. The intentions to use men as a universal repertoire of behaviour, and to apply this behaviour, de-boned and-structured, to a creature who questions its being in the world. The audio project will be realized by Francesco Fonassi.

Carola Bonfili (1981, Rome) lives and works between Brescia and Rome. Taking inspiration from natural forms and cognitive mechanics, yet driven by an obsessive attention to details and hidden macro phenomena (mnemonic functions, mental/subconscious forms and impossible resolutions) all her work moves toward multi-layered narrations, crystallized each time by a strong idea of the self and its cultural relevance across the time. AI principles, CGI, VR, A/V environments and automatic writing are the main tools of her recent research. A performative matrix is often found in the production processes at the basis of her sculptural works and environmental installations, which are immersive in nature and tend to forms of transmedial narration. Her work was presented in various institutions both in Italy and abroad, of which: MAXXI, Rome; Triennale Milano, Milan; Italian Institute of Culture, Los Angeles; Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève; La Galleria Nazionale, MACRO, American Academy in Rome. She has gotten several awards and acknowledgements: Premio LUM, 2011 (finalist); Rome Prize, American Academy, 2008-2009 (winner); Premio Strozzina, Florence, 2009 (finalist); and she participated in a residency with the American Academy in Rome in 2007 and with MACRO in 2012. Since 2004 she collaborated with the magazine NERO with which in 2011 she begins her publication of Names of Numbers; a series of monographic books about drawing.

PHOTO CAPTION: Carola Bonfili, The Flute Singing, 2021, production still, CGI video, graphic project by Imago, sound by Francesco Fonassi. Production MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna and Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève

FINALIST | JOHANNA BRUCKNER| MOLECULAR SEX

The future is often described as a toxic breakdown of the human. For Johanna Bruckner, the hybridization of the nonhuman and human is rather a starting point for the indeterminacy of being. Her video installation, Molecular Sex, shows an entanglement of human, animal, technology, sex, and atmosphere in which molecularization shapes a networked world. The fluid main character is a fictitious sex bot that evokes plastic as a chemical substance impacting biological life; it further performs as a brittle star (a sea creature) as well as nanotechnological beings that distort lovemaking and gender. Pushing the limits of the human sensorium, it invents technological prostheses that redistribute the relations and patterns with which subjects comprehend the world. The project asks how the molecularization and indeterminacy of being, today, might inform futures better tooled to deal with current technological, political and ecological changes.

Johanna Bruckner (Vienna, 1984) is based in Zurich. Her recent research shows an entanglement of human, animal, technology, sex, and atmosphere in which molecularization shapes a networked world. Recent exhibitions and screenings include: SCHIRN Kunsthalle Frankfurt, ICA, Institute for Contemporary Art, Milan; Roehrs & Boetsch, Zürich; The Transmediale 2020, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; The 57th Venice Biennial; Galerie EIGEN+ART Lab, Berlin; CAC, Centre; The Architecture Venice Biennale 2018; KW, Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Migros Musem für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich; Villa Croce, Museum for Contemporary Art, Genoa; the Kunsthaus in Hamburg; the Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof; Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich. Her work was arwarded by numerous awards and was nominated for a fellowship at Harvard University, MIT, Cambridge. She was a Visual Arts Fellow at the Istituto Svizzero in Rom, the Akademie Schloss Solitude, the Banff Center for Visual Arts in Canada and is currently a fellow at the Jan Van Eyck Academie. Bruckner is working on a commission for Mediterranea Biennale for Young Art and Swissnex San Francisco and received the Recognition Award for Fine Arts of Lower Austria, 2020.

PHOTO CAPTION: Johanna Bruckner, Molecular Sex, 4K/HD video, still, 2020

FINALIST | MANUEL FOCARETA | EPITAPHS FOR THE HUMAN ARTIST

In classical culture, the epitaph was a commemorative speech performed by an orator in honour of war heroes. In modern poetry instead, it started to acquire the shape of a short text used as a sepulchral description. Thus, it became an actual literary form used not only by the loved ones of the departed but also by artists, intellectuals and poets to glorify what was done during the life of the one that passed away. Starting for the peculiarities of this literary form and its uses in Western culture, Manuel Focareta designed Epitaphs for the human artist, namely an installation that generates epitaphs in honour of the human artist as we used to know and imagined him/her to be up until today but that, at the same time, states his/her death, his/her end. The viewer finds him/herself in front of an interactive grave that generates, in specific time frames, new texts through which the machine symbolically honours the human artist. The goal is that of putting the viewer in an alienating and ambiguous condition: at the time of reading, the author, the subject and the “non-human” nature of the texts are unknown and become comprehensible only by reading the title of the artwork and the synopsis. Specifically, one of the most advanced technologies in the field of AI, namely a text generator based on Artificial Neural Networks, was designed in collaboration with the Università di Verona.

Manuel Focareta (1990), artist and researcher, vice-president of Numero Cromatico and editor of “Nodes” Journal. His research focuses on poetry in relation to new communication technologies, visual communication and Artificial Intelligence. His practice is based on the artist’s expressive abstinence, the use of generative processes in literary production and the study of the spatial and visual components of a text. From 2014 to 2017, he produced poetry using social media and dating apps, actively involving the users. In the last years, he started working with artificial neural networks with the aim of creating texts that are capable of evoking emotions in the viewers on crucial existential themes such as death, love, grief and loss.

PHOTO CAPTION: Manuel Focareta, Epitaphs for the human artist, (in progress)

 

FINALIST | EGOR KRAFT | CHINESE INK

Chinese Ink is a generative installation in which electronic ink screens are displaying real-time streamed outputs of an AI system, trained on images of inkblots and set to generate visually similar images, producing dozens of samples per second. The AI system is a generative-adversarial artificial neural network that is trained on a dataset of nearly a thousand blots of ink splashed onto watercolour paper. The installation calls on the traditional chinese ink wash painting technique. However, it is not directed towards stylistic connotations or iconography of Eastern cultural tradition, in focus instead is the ink itself, its material qualities and ontology. With this project Egor Kraft questions the ways in which the chinese ink technique continue to survive through the stages of ever-expanding industrialization. The work is a visual meditation on tracing the links between traditions, technologies, time, and techno- industrial processes leading to automation and new tools bringing forth new emerging aesthetics, as they derive from formerly dominating visual languages.

Interdisciplinary artist and researcher Egor Kraft (1986, Leningrad) lives and works in Moscow & Berlin. As an artistic method he looks for ways to produce work which sit on the boundaries between realities and their virtual misrepresentations. He participated in the 5th Moscow Biennial for Young Art, Ural Industrial Biennial, Ars Electronica, WRO Biennial, Impakt Festival, Open Codes at ZKM, and other museum and solo shows internationally. He was several times nominated for Lumen Prize (UK), Kandinsky Prize (RU), Pulsar Prize (FR), Inno- vation Prize and Kuryokhin Prize. In 2017 he was included in the New East 100, a list of people, places and projects shaping our world today by Calvert Journal (UK). In 2019 he became STARTS residencies research fellow at University of Southampton and Garage Museum Art & Technology Grant recipient.

PHOTO CAPTION: Egor Kraft, Chinese Ink, 2019

[electronic ink screens, neural network, custom produced dataset, custom designed liquid cooled server; custom e-ink video playback software driver].

FINALIST | MARIAGRAZIA PONTORNO | SUPER HU.FO* VOYNICH

The work starts from the Voynich manuscript story – the most mysterious and esoteric code in the world – and the innumerable attempts to translate it. This is a small manuscript that carbon 14 analysis dates from the 15th century, but what transformed it into a cult text is undoubtedly the language used, unknown and in all probability encrypted. In recent years, there has been talk of the use of artificial intelligence, but in an incorrect way: in fact, to date, lexical recurrence software has been used, based on percentage calculation. The code has been the subject of several university classes dedicated to artificial intelligence but in none of the hypotheses of advanced solutions was the AI. All the proposals made so far are very subjective, ambiguous and above all complex, from the most imaginative to the most rigorous hypotheses, it is clear the desire to win a challenge rather than find a unique solution, a key that is the perfect fit between the figure and the underlying meaning. Super Hu.Fo* Voynich is born from this assumption, that is the range of possibilities that makes human thought so flexible and creative, and from the results driven by the unconscious leaps of imagination. What the artist wants to achieve is the translation of a piece of code, using machine learning and artificial intelligence, but providing the machine with the solution to find. And therefore falsifying the outcome of the calculation in a deliberate manner, playing with the Moravec paradox, widely used in the AI environment, according to which machines are good at what humans are weak in, and vice versa.

Mariagrazia Pontorno (Catania, 1978). She lives and works in Rome. Her work has been shown in Italian and international museums, including MAXXI in Rome, MACRO in Rome, the Biedermann Museum in Donaueschingen, the Stadtgalerie in Kiel, MLAC in Rome, Museo di Castel S.Elmo in Naples, Art Center di Thessaloniki, Museo RISO in Palermo, as well as in galleries and non-profit venues such as Monitor in Rome, ISCP in New York, HSF also in New York, Fondazione Noesi Studio Carrieri in Martina Franca, Passaggi Arte Contemporanea in Pisa, Casa Musumeci Greco in Rome, CCCC (Centre del Carme Cultura Contemporania) in Valencia.

PHOTO CAPTION: Mariagrazia Pontorno, Super Hu.Fo* Voynich, (in progress)

ABCD1 is a project by Moises H. Valenzuela, Fabio Rovai and Filippo Rosati presented by Umanesimo Artificiale. It consists in a sonification of the DNA mutations of the ABCD1, gene through artificial intelligence processing, where biology meets sound design and art bridges the natural and the artificial. ABCD1 is a protein-coding gene, its mutations cause X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy: a rare genetic neurological disease that causes the buildup of very-long-chain fatty acids (VLCFAs) in the brain. When VLCFAs accumulate, they destroy the protective myelin sheath around nerve cells, responsible for brain function. One of the artists has been diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy over 10 years ago; that’s the reason why this sci-art research project exists. In ABCD1, new expressions of DNA sonification through style transfer AI algorithms are explored, in the form of a stereo sound installation. The result is an alienating and hypnotic left-and-right asynchronous soundtrack. A juxtaposition of sounds: on the left audio the sonification of healthy DNA genes, while on the right audio the sonification of mutated DNA genes.

Filippo Rosati is Director of Umanesimo Artificiale, a studio and artist platform investigating what does it mean to be human in the era of artificial intelligence. Fabio Rovai is an interdisciplinary artist working in between traditional media and AI. Moisés Horta Valenzuela is an autodidact sound artist, technologist and electronic musician from Tijuana, México, working in the fields of computer music, artificial intelligence and the history and politics of emerging digital technologies.

PHOTO CAPTION: Umanesimo Artificiale, ABCD1, (in progress)

 

Object Oriented Choreography (OOC) presents itself as a VR performance/performed installation, at the intersection between the actual and the virtual. In the context of OOC, a performer donning a VR headset becomes the gaze and the engine of an ever-changing apparatus: a zone composed of people, objects, digital platforms, electromagnetic signals, spaces and timings, an accidental interlocking of logistics, dynamics, and rules that allow it to exist, to evolve, and eventually to disappear. In order to stress the digital complexities our lives are embedded in, OOC proposes a performative approach that juxtaposes two kinds of intelligence: that of the physical body and that of the artificial viewpoint. From their intermingling and interaction, fragments of a choreography emerge, following, and directing streams of information and user inputs. OOC is a mutual, collaborative device: it is dependent on the input of an audience and at the same time it grants and enables their flow, resembling a machinic intelligence with the performer as the interface. The ever-changing system of networks, connections, and platforms that inspire OOC, imply that this project wants to be an evolving performative tool. It could be a chatroom where the performer engages in role-play, where she becomes a server that delivers the messages from/to the participants, or a multiplayer musical instrument with the performer remixing sounds sent by users. Through a combined effort of imagining, listening, and direct involvement, the audience is partaking in a process of empathy, resonating with the entire software architecture and its single entities (users, data, algorithms, etc.). How do these entities perceive and inhabit our world? What consistency does their reality have? Guided by the movements of the performer and by her digital gaze, we can learn to relate on a human scale with this strange object-oriented choreography. The project was made in co-production between Triennale Milano and Ariella Vidach Aiep.

Francesco Luzzana (1996) develops custom pieces of software that address digital complexity in a visual and performative way. He likes collaborative projects, in order to face contemporary issues with plural approach. His research aims to stress the borders of a post-digital landscape, inhabiting its contradictions and possibilities. He has a BA in New Media at Brera Academy of Fine Arts, Milan, is a member of un * salta collective, and works as a freelance designer and developer with Ariella Vidach Aiep and Non-Linear studio.

PHOTO CAPTION: Francesco Luzzana, Object Oriented Choreography (wisiwyg), 18th November 2020, performance, Triennale Milano, Milan

 

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