Taking its title from Shannon Ebner’s installation The Electric Comma, the exhibition focuses on shifts in language, perception and understanding in the age of artificial intelligence. Through varied practices and from different backgrounds, participating artists deal with the negotiations between the conscious mind and today’s pervasive learning machine, imagining pathways of exchange between human and nonhuman, ranging from the poetic and intuitive to the algorithmical and analytical.
A number of works in The Electric Comma look at ways in which we communicate with information technologies and the ecological impact they may have, paralleling cryptographic and biological systems, revealing or imagining living infrastructures for artificial life. Andrey Shental’s video installation Descent into the Fungal features fungal mycelium networks that enable connected plants to communicate in addition to transmitting nutrients and energy, looking at how certain life forms benefit from this network of connections while others fall prey to it. Today, a growing super-organism of algorithms and databases increasingly filters how we perceive, learn, communicate and remember. Sprawling around the globe like a fabric of mycelium, our current digital infrastructure bears more resemblance to living systems than outdated analogue technologies.
Misting Miner, a vapour sculpture by Alexey Buldakov from the Russian collective Urban Fauna Lab, visualises the invisible phenomenon of mining crypto currency. The excess heat produced by the computer as it performs this process is a latent and untapped source of energy that can be redirected and used in many ways. Based on the Drunken Walk algorithm mycelium – a chance-based mathematical system used in financial theory to predict stock prices – Cheyney Thompson’s Stochastic Process Paintings employ a formula to determine a particular three-dimensional colour system, while Wade Guyton’s black monochrome paintings generated by inkjet printers on a readymade computer format foreground the paradox of the preprogrammed error as the machine’s own “creativity”.
These days the distinction between artificial and human intelligence is becoming less and less clear cut, increasingly appearing to be a mere construct of our perception. In Pedro Neves Marques’s short film The Pudic Relationship between Machine and Plant, the lines between synthetic and organic life are further blurred. A robotic arm grazes the leaves of a mimosa pudica plant, a hypersensitive species that instinctively closes its leaves in response to the cold touch of the machine.