For his fourth solo show at bitforms gallery, R. Luke DuBois questions individual agency, from the choices we make in our daily lives to those that constitute the “world’s greatest democracy.” Repurposing and building upon mid-twentieth century voting machines, DuBois pairs typically innocuous words as oppositional choices, a gesture underscoring the lack of choice we feel when presented with reductive binaries.
The Choice Is Yours consists of a series of mechanical voting machines from the forties, fifties, and sixties, manufactured by the Automatic Voting Machine (AVM) Corporation in Jamestown, New York. In the exhibition, these machines are transformed into Learning Machines, a play on the concept of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), the premise of which is that computers––given the correct parameters and data––can simulate human behavior and decision-making. The Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence, convened in the summer of 1956 and considered by many to be one of the most historically significant events in AI, dates to the same time period as the voting machines in the exhibition.
The Learning Machines themselves are interactive sculptures; participants use them to vote on a series of choicesposed as dichotomies that range from the poignant to the absurd. Upon voting, the participant receives a unique video response. These brief, user-specific audiovisuals draw on datasets of media developed for and employed in machine learning research. Real-time results from voting will be displayed in the gallery.
Historical ephemera from voting machines are presented alongside the artworks in the exhibition. Materials include voting machine manuals, spare mechanisms, and the infamous Votomatic-style voting machine that produced “hanging chads” in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. A text by historian Jonathan Soffer details the history of ballot voting and the evolution of voting machines in the United States.