Over the past decade the notion and politics of crowds has been central in Anna Ådahl’s artistic practice. In numerous works she has been observing and examining the relationship between the individual and the mass as well as the language of the body in relation to the psychological, physical or political space that surrounds it. Within her current practice based research her focus has turned towards the conditions, the aesthetics and the politics of contemporary crowds, operating in a new computational realm.
A crowd simulation is generated by software and is a digital visualization of a computer-generated crowd composed of intelligent agents (using Artificial Intelligence and multi agent systems) programmed to act collectively according to each other and the given environment, proposing a choreography of mute bodies. These simulations are predominantly people in the periphery populating a milieu, or instrumental bodies in crowd management strategies, shaped as an entity seen from afar.
Anna Ådahl’s interest for crowd simulations emerged upon encountering show-reels and tutorials online. She then discovered that most crowd simulation software emerged from the search to create a warrior, a destructive force to be used for battle scenes in big film productions. The same software is also available to be used in crowd management for safety purposes. The digital representation of the crowd grew out of a desire to both depict and control violent acts.
Anna Ådahl argues that the organization and the systemization of crowds are per definition political acts. I.e. when you create and program a crowd, even if it is a simulation or representation of a crowd, you produce a political act, a political image. How does the crowd simulation software, which originates from the representation of acts of violence, affect the simulated crowds and how does it reconnect to early crowd theories of the crowd as a mob, a potentially malleable and violent force?
In the exhibition at Marabouparken konsthall Anna Ådahl explores the computational tools of representation and supervision of today’s organized crowds and tries to identify the political impact they will have on us and on our future collective behaviour and co-existence.
Anna Ådahl oscillates between the position of the (supposed) universality of the crowd, and its individual members’ singularity. The audience is at once above or outside, while at the same time imbued in and surveyed by the installation in the gallery. From a lookout point it is possible to observe the exhibition from an elevated point of view where what is obscured through the simulation of a default character becomes apparent.
The notion of fluidity is central to both the managing of crowds and in the programming of crowd simulations. The flow of the crowds and movements are programmed to avoid any collision, any recognition of each individual default character as something more than a cog in machinery. The digital bodies do not acknowledge one another as other beings with whom to interact, but as obstacles to avoid. This flow in our collective behaviours can be applied to various fields of current political events such as migration flows and in our current economics.
During the course of the exhibition, Anna Ådahl will stage a live choreographed performance, in which a group of dancers enact the behavioural characteristics and patterns of the digital crowd agents The ambition is to provide another sensory and creative understanding of the virtual crowd and to complexify our identification with our evolving embodied self in relation to the virtual crowd agent, to help specify the politics of the collective digital body in relation to our own physical bodies.
Which crowds are represented? Who needs to be programmed or systematized? What is the politics of the collective digital body?