until 20.01. | #2921ARTatBerlin | Sexauer Gallery shows from 2nd December 2020 the exhibition “I consider it a tragedy that we have not found each other!”, an artistic reanimation from the spirit of AI by the artist Ornella Fieres.
In her third exhibition at SEXAUER, Ornella Fieres transforms a bundle of letters, postcards and photographs into works of art with the help of artificial intelligence (AI): text-based video works, ready-made text objects, and AI-generated images of plants.
In 2016, Fieres acquired a box containing about seven hundred letters from the 1960s and 70s from the former GDR that had been left behind. The letters, including postcards and photographs, were addressed to a woman in East Berlin who lived only a few hundred meters away from the SEXAUER gallery. Among the letters were also a few that she had written herself.
The exhibition is divided into three groups of works. For the first, Fieres had the handwritten texts transcribed in print by an artificial intelligence based on a neural network. In this way, she made the texts accessible in terms of content with handwriting that was sometimes difficult to read. Some of the letters, more than half a century old, were still written in Sütterlin script.
Fieres selected over a hundred text fragments, mostly single sentences, and shows them in the exhibition on three old monitors. Due to a random generator, the text fragments on display alternate, so that new textual contexts are constantly created. Sometimes the transcriptions are afflicted with small errors. An AI-generated voice also makes the texts audible.
“The strawberries decay in the garden, that because of rain.”
In the second group of works, Fieres had the photographs analyzed on the basis of AI. The AI had recognized the objects in the pictures and described the objects in writing. In collages, Fieres shows the reverse side of the original prints and below them the AI-formulated a description of the picture in text.
„a man sitting on a bench in a field.“
In the third group of works, the artist fed a neuronal network with the data of floral motifs that were typical of the time from the postcards in the bundle. Fieres used this data to generate AI-based new plant images that have displayed a depiction of peculiar beauty.
“I was glowing with excitement.”
In the three groups of works, Fieres declines an artistic procedure that is peculiar to her work: digital algorithms and neural networks transform historical images and texts material into new images, texts and sounds. Fieres conjures images of the past and in doing so creates new ones. It seemingly could be a technicist practice, but the opposite is the case. For both the artistic processes and the works themselves have something occult, anarchic and even spiritual about them. Fieres’ artistic strategy is an interplay of discovering and concealing, revealing and disguising, finding and losing, and lastly, conscious selection and loss of control.
“Man is not a machine after all.”
What is the interplay of discovering and concealing? Firstly, artificial intelligence converts difficult to decipher handwriting into printed matter, which makes the documents readable. On the other hand, artificial intelligence has a certain rate of error; therefore in the worst case the meaning can be changed or lost.
“Where is this going to lead?”
Image recognition is as error-prone as text recognition. By only showing the back sides of the photographs Fieres withholds the image content from the observer. Fieres makes it impossible for the viewer to compare image content and image description and thus to check their correspondence. Naturally, Fieres ignites the imagination of the viewer. The viewer then mentally projects the read image content onto the back of the photograph and also wonders whether it is correct. In this way, a separate image is created in the biological neural network – or let’s say: in the mind.
“I disguised my voices.”
The artistic intelligence of Fieres and the artificial intelligence of the algorithms work together. The artificial intelligence transcribes the texts and Fieres selects the fragments. As always, Fieres relinquishes control at various points in the production process or switches on randomness, for example when displaying the text fragments in the videos.
“My mind was not on the matter at all.”
Particularly “magical” is the transformation of the GDR-typical flower postcards into new plant pictures that have something very quaint about them. They are close and far away at the same time. As in an accelerated evolution, countless small deviations and variations create new species. These species can seem known to us, familiar, yet strange.
“So there you are in a quandary again.”
Historically, technological revolutions have always brought about social and economic changes. People have been both fascinated and skeptical about these changes. Above all, the changes in their totality and complexity were often experienced as intangible, threatening, and mysterious. This is also the case with the phenomena of artificial intelligence and machine learning. In these techniques there are hidden layers as well as a complexity which lead to an actual or seemingly life of their own. The artist, who also does not know the exact procedures, thus becomes a magician who combines the digital with the occult.
“I don’t want to die yet.”
In spite of all the transformations, all the works remain linked, letters, postcards and photographs from the GDR of the 1960s and 70s, the documents from an unfree country, from a time when artificial intelligence played no role in people’s lives. The circumstances and aesthetics of that time, that place, and sometimes also of the political system, shine through in the texts and pictures.
“After all, you have to be publish every word exactly what you write.”
The greatest magic is that the exhibition brings this unknown woman to you. A reanimation, or almost a rebirth. Through all the transformations, through artificial intelligence, calculation processes and machine learning, the essence of this woman, this life, and this time, shines through.
“At the moment the theatres are unfortunately closed.”
Vernissage: Sunday, 29th November 2020, noon – 6:00 pm
Exhibition period: Wednesday, 2nd December 2020 – Wednesday, 20th January 2021To the gallery
Exhibition Ornella Fieres – Sexauer Gallery | Zeitgenössische Kunst in Berlin | Contemporary Art | Exhibitions Berlin Galleries | ART at Berlin