12th December 2020 – 22nd January 2021
Larry Achiampong, David Blandy, Stine Deja and Mimi Ọnụọha
Curated by Bob Bicknell-Knight
Networked Visions is an exhibition examining the use of algorithms and machine learning techniques, exploring the embedded bias present within these complex systems that govern our day to day lives and how the use of AI within various industries is changing how we communicate, fall in love and evolve. The works on show consider the politics of pattern recognition, DNA testing and love in the age of AI.
The exhibition takes its name from computer vision, a field of study that seeks to develop techniques to help computers see and understand the content of digital images. In order to understand what is happening within visual content computers use algorithms that are trained using datasets. The largest dataset in use today for developing algorithms is ImageNet, which contains over 20,000 different categories and 14 million images. There are several problems associated with the use of datasets, mainly that the images used are categorised and defined by human beings with an embedded bias, and in turn imprint their human prejudices onto images that are used to train different types of software around the world.
The works included in Networked Visions broadly consider how algorithms give rise to biased forms of artificial intelligence, from reflecting on the politics and problematic history of DNA testing to presenting how ideas of intimacy will evolve and change as automated bodies continue to be developed and improved upon.
Larry Achiampong and David Blandy’s 2019 film, A Terrible Fiction, investigates how invisible histories, such as the relationship between Charles Darwin and his taxidermy teacher John Edmonstone, a freed slave, have helped to inform mainstream western scientific thinking while remaining unrecognised. It is now believed that Edmonstone was pivotal in advancing Darwin’s theory of evolution, inspiring Darwin to visit South America and teaching him taxidermy skills, enabling the preservation of specimens of finches Darwin discovered on his voyage to the Galapagos Islands, which helped him to develop his theory of natural selection. Through A Terrible Fiction, the artists are questioning how these narratives shape our perception of the history of scientific thought and who determines such history. Through the work the artists ask whose voices have been, and are currently being, erased from mainstream narratives.
Stine Deja’s 2018 film, The Intimacy Package, presents a series of lessons composed of five short sequences set in a variety of environments, such as a contemporary flat, a computer server room and an idyllic beach at sunset, in which an electronic narrator guides the viewer through various means of achieving intimacy. Employing romantic clichés from films, borrowing from conversations with Amazon Echo’s Alexa, and sharing lessons from intimacy care workers, the film challenges how intimacy is realised and its inevitable failure when it is mimicked between human and non-human beings.
The final artwork in the exhibition, Us, Aggregated 3.0 by Mimi Ọnụọha, uses Google’s reverse-image search algorithms to hint at questions of power, community, and identity. The work presents an expanded collection of photos from the artist's family's personal collection set alongside images scraped from Google's library that have been algorithmically categorized as similar. Viewed together, the images evoke a sensation of community and similarity that belies the fact that the subjects are randomly assorted, a manufactured aggregation of “us” that remains an "us" nonetheless.
The exhibition takes the form of a highly volatile spiders web of interconnected visual ephemera, where the artworks on show are presented alongside referential images, videos and gifs. Audience members are invited to sought through the networked rubble, discovering the overt and hidden connections between the presented artworks.
The exhibition is kindly supported by Arts Council England.
The exhibition is part of a six month program consisting of four online exhibitions, culminating in a physical book and online panel discussion. Each exhibition is connected by the overarching theme of Networks, exposing and exploring the underlying architecture of our daily lives, investigating the social, political, digital and hierarchical networks that we reside within.
The program opened in October 2020, ends in April 2021 and is kindly supported by Arts Council England.