DEMO DAY September 24- October 29 Curated by Fernando Schrupp Opening Sunday, September 24th 4-6pm
With Aram Bartholl, Émilie Brout & Maxime Marion, Ursula Damm, Eteam, Nathaniel Faulkner, Esther Hunziker, Eduardo Kac, Marc Lee, Claudia Maté, Jennifer & Kevin McCoy, Robert Myers, Andrew Nunes, Nicholas O'Brien, Alexander Reben, Daniel Temkin, Ubermorgen and Michel Winterberg
Opening Reception with a performance by Daniel Temkin and the release of Cryptocurrency token DEMO DAY by Robert Myers.
The title of the exhibition is a reference to Y Combinator’s biannual event where a few chosen startups pitch their ideas to the most relevant VC's (Venture Capitalist) of Silicon Valley. Lately, we seem to be submerged in the media bubble of the tech ecosystem, and tech-industry lingoes, such as growth hacking, pivot, and unicorn have become common language. We voraciously read stories about Elon Musk or Travis Kalanick, assigning them roles as heroes or villains, depending on the beat of the season.
“Demo Day” is intended as a platform for artists whose ideas are worth “pitching” in a time of rise-of-the-machine hysteria. Silicon Valley has captured our imagination, and its intention is to highjack culture. They tell us a story of code-generated disruptions improving our lives, but mostly, changing the ways we consume things. Their ultimate goal is leading the consumer into the trap of easier access to consumption. Artists are here to remind us that this story, although generally accepted, is not what history has taught us. The exponential function shaping hockey-stick-growth (graphic description of accelerating growth) is no match to the rate of creativity in which artists defy our preconceived notions of the world.
After all, the most deliberate ways that language can be repurposed, playfully re-designed as part of a metaphorical understanding used for the tech game, has its root in contemporary art and how the artists developed an understanding for meta-language as part of our vocabulary. These gestures spin back, derive and refer to pioneer works of contemporary art– rather than quoting them, the exhibition intends to display works of art that build on the conceptual approach to the digital world and tech culture. The following is a short text written in the form of a hyperbole to illustrate the intent of the exhibition:
5 Amazing Ways Artists Will Help You Stop AI from Killing Your Grandchildren
1. Blur the line between the body and the machine
This year, we saw Elon Musk coming out and saying AI was “vastly more risky than North Korea" while advocating for regulation. He also told us that “in the end, the machines will win.” But before getting ready for war, we should reconsider a few things. This kind of juncture doesn’t sound unfamiliar after all. As with other machines of the past, it is challenging to understand where the machine ends and the human starts.
We seem to be heading (maybe we are already there) to a point where only a few control the machines. Artists will be instrumental in the redistribution of wealth and creation of new democratic structures, as they have been in the past, while we explore our relationship with our bodies and the narrow ways in which society understands them.
2. Understanding language is as complex as generating it
The famous Turing test has pretty basic standards to measure the ability of machines to exhibit intelligent behavior: A human evaluator would judge natural language conversations between a human and a machine. In 1980, John Searle introduced in his paper: “Minds, Brains, and Programs,” the Chinese room argument. Even a person unfamiliar with the Chinese language can respond to a native speaker if given sufficient paper, pencils, erasers, and filing cabinets (a procedure).
If the understanding of language has proven to be such a computationally expensive process, it appears that generating language may take a bit longer. That would buy us significant time before the next singularity.
3. Ideas cannot be measured
What is the algorithm for success? Francesco Marconi has the answer: E.N.G.A.G.E. will help you design experiences that promote “successful thinking.” "However, the formula doesn’t work unless you do. Your potential is there waiting to be discovered!” so he claims. Silicon Valley has created a new discipline around idea generation. Guru’s like Sam Altman preach to the faithful, “No matter what you choose, build stuff and be around smart people” or “The truly good ideas don’t sound like they’re worth stealing.” These truisms seem to be at the core of the selection process of the next billion-dollar startup in the incubator he leads.
Altman also believes that “The natural state of a startup is to die. “To say, “This changes everything” or to call someone an “innovator” has a negative connotation in Palo Alto.
In these terms, it almost seems easier to price artwork than investing in a share of the next Uber of something. Artists have been dealing with the problem of value for ages and have seemingly come to terms with the perpetually shifting appreciation for their work.
4. The Silicon Valley Graveyard is full of useful material
One thing that seems to be abundant in the tech world is carcasses. Medium is a platform where failed CEO’s post stories about their” incredible journeys.” The tech world even refers to some of the living companies as Zombie Start-ups, if the progress has stalled, and the “brains” have fled for the hottest new vaporware.
The historians cataloging this graveyard will tell us heroic stories of the patriarchs of tech, and the archeologists of the future will make replicas of our data centers and all the iPhone versions for grand museum exhibitions. However, we do not need to wait, artists are a few steps ahead and already doing this work.
5. Artists can write great Hyperbole
The ‘Porn at The End of the Tunnel’ VR hypothesis refers to the adult entertainment industry that is paving the way for the platform. The internet was created to deliver content more efficiently, and content is something artists have been providing for a long, long time. Content is the reason why coders will always need artists.
Buzzfeed may be stacked with top programmers on Soylent diets sporting ponytails, but the Buzzfeed writer is the one that gets the spotlight, elevating list building and quiz conjuring to its highest level of refinement.
In the end, when we face the machines in the apocalyptic future, no need to unplug their power source, just don’t feed them any list type articles, memes, tweets, filtered portraits, or any type of viral content. This will be the only sure way to destroy them for good.
Featuring works by:
Aram Bartholl’s work creates an interplay between internet, culture and reality. How do our taken-for-granted communication channels influence us? Bartholl asks not just what humans are doing with media, but what media is doing with humans. Tensions between public and private, online and offline, techno-lust and everyday life are at the core of his work and his public interventions and installations, often entailing surprisingly physical manifestations of the digital world, challenge our concepts of reality and incorporeality.
The meaning of value in a post-whatever era, the mass abundance of images - from amateur image production to professional images to algorithmically generated images - and the consequent shift of the artist from production to post-production - and from the creation of works to the generation of formats - are all recurring topics in the recent work of Émilie Brout and Maxime Marion. Since 2009 the French couple has been focusing on projects that, renovating the modernist language of film, make an extensive use of appropriated content from the web, which is freed from its status of meaningless, apparently valueless data floating in the information networks to be rearranged in complex, algorithmically generated, sometimes interactive narratives, or into powerful, iconic images.
Prof. Ursula Damm, Chair of Media Environments Bauhaus-Iniversitat Weimar. Referring to environment as a concept from artistic practice of the nineteen-fifties that emphasizes the mismatch between life and art, the Media Environments Research Chair (GMU) aims to redesign everyday situations, objects, devices and practices. The Multi-layered mixture of cultures and technologies and further, the production of knowledge all call for a permanent repositioning of artistic practices within society. Through transdisciplinary experimentation with art, technology, biology and nature, GMU aims to challenge our own self-conceptions in a rapidly changing world. Along with creating artwork for exhibitions, GMU works throughout everyday situations; cooperations with the sciences and cultural institutions; the internet; game environments and public spaces. GMU develops audio visual installations; mise-en-scènes; performance and interventions in urban space. GMU works with a variety of tools and techniques to create wearable technology; smart objects; digital visualizations; electro-mechanical sculptures, experimental games and simulations of utopian city planning. Media Environments encourages artists to experiment with technological processes, creative coding, DIY electronics and further with species, organisms, plants and animals. GMU investigates new ways to perceive ideas of environment by cultivating connections between art, technology, science and and nature in adventurous ways.
Since 2001 eteam (Franziska Lamprecht and Hajoe Moderegger) traffics in transience. At the intersection of relational aesthetics, the Internet and land art, eteam coordinates collective happenings and conceptual transactions between the earthly plane and the realms of the interweb, often reconstructed in hypnotic video work, radio plays, or more. For a period of two years eteam made it their business to take pictures of abandoned gloves on the pavements of NYC. The feelings and thoughts that surrounded this activity related to the ways his family relates to Gregor Samsa as a cockroach, or whatever Franz Kafka intended him to be in The Metamorphosis after his transformation from a productive citizen to a useless insect.
Nathaniel Faulkner, through his practice has become involved with the literature surrounding myth and its interpreters. The debate surrounding myth and science is the focal point of a lot of my work, postulating the significance of myth in a modern scientific era and the inherently problematic nature of theorizing on myth from a Western standpoint. While he is still engaged with the work of recent and contemporary artists, he draws from the images and symbols of ancient and pre history just as readily. Often these archetypal motifs and imagery are combined with references to contemporary culture; the piece titled ‘Deep Blue’ is a simulacrum of IBM computer that beat chess grandmaster Kasparov in the 90s. This machine, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the original computer, is dissimilar in that it contains no computational power. The only electronics in the hollow machine are the LEDs that blink sequentially underneath the perforated steel, they appear to be decoding a problem, an impressive display of its thinking power. This is a very literal representation of what is called ‘black box technology’, the computer gives the illusion that it has the capacity to think or problem solve, yet it has no ‘internal mechanism’.
The video Earth is a virtual trip around the world on Google earth 3D. The camera's perspective is directed upwards, up to the sky and zooms in into the vast, empty space where digital renderings in a variety of strange formations slowly pass by. In a spatial simulation of the world, these abstract renderings are displaced shapes, which lost their contact to the earth. Like space debris they're floating freely through the dark endless void. The automated 3D mapping algorithm of Google earth combines multiple satellite images to create textured 3D cityscapes, including buildings, terrain, and even landscapes. This auto-generated process still has its gaps and errors which can cause artificial, alien shapes. Esther Hunziker tracks down these errors and rearranges them to a hypnotic video full of architectural anomalies and abstract entities. – A Space Odyssey/Oddity 2016
From his first experiments online in 1985 to his current convergence of the digital and the biological, Eduardo Kac has always investigated the philosophical and political dimensions of communication processes. Equally concerned with the aesthetic and the social aspects of verbal and non-verbal interaction, in his work Kac examines linguistic systems, dialogic exchanges, and interspecies communication. Kac's pieces, which often link virtual and physical spaces, propose alternative ways of understanding the role of communication phenomena in creating shared realities. Kac merges multiple media and biological processes to create hybrids from the conventional operations of existing communications systems. Kac first employed telerobotics in 1986 motivated by a desire to convert electronic space from a medium of representation to a medium for remote agency. He creates pieces in which actions carried out by Internet participants have direct physical manifestation in a remote gallery space. Often relying on the indefinite suspension of closure and the intervention of the participant, his work encourages dialogical interaction and confronts complex issues concerning identity, agency, responsibility, and the very possibility of communication.
Marc Lee is creating network-oriented interactive art projects, interactive installations, media art, internet art, performance art and video art since 1999. He is experimenting with information and communication technologies and within his contemporary art practice, he reflects creative, cultural, social, economic and political aspects. The TV Bot is an Internet news channel which only broadcasts brand new stories. Never more than an hour old, they are scooped from the Internet’s news flux, reformatted for a browser and given a URL. The process is automated, with no editorial hand behind the content selection which is reproduced in apparently random order as live TV streams, live radio streams, webcam images and text-based headlines. The only criterion that matters is “liveness”.
Claudia Maté works in a large area of new media and online based works. Her works come from a variety of formats including programming, 3D, video, videogames, VR, GIF and sound. She is Co-founder and curator at cloaque.org. Her work manages to blend the familiar with the odd, and the futuristic with strange retro tropes. She has realized her ambition to fuse the internet and interactive 3D technology into an aesthetic that is non-ideological and defines a never-ending new aesthetic – into a surreal and pixelated world where anything is possible, and nothing is as it seems.
Jennifer & Kevin McCoy’s multimedia artworks examine the genres and conventions of filmmaking, memory and language. They are well known for constructing subjective databases of narrative material and making fragmentary miniature film sets with lights, video cameras, and moving sculptural elements to create live cinematic events. Wall mounted shadow box depicting a fantasy landscape incorporating aspects of the San Francisco Bay area, the Dominion board game, and the Oracle headquarters circa 2014. Contains an oil on canvas background, color photography, video screen, and electronics.
Rob Myers is an artist, hacker, and writer. For more than two decades his work has probed and clarified the significance to society of practices in expressive and engineering cultures, from the apparently mundane and bureaucratic to the deeply mysterious. Through his artworks, many of which take the form of software, he plays with concepts of art, value, authorship and creation in the age of digital networks. Cryptocurrencies and art exhibitions both create intentional communities of shared social and economic value. The DEMODAY token operationalizes this link to make the first art show-specific cryptocurrency.
Andrew Nunes' performance and installation NU Freeport sees the artist position himself as the CEO of a new freeport corporation specializing exclusively in the storage of digital artworks. Masking itself with a series of persuasive advantages over its physical art storage competitors in order to lure art collectors in, Nunes' freeport is much more malicious at its core. Exacerbating the culturally destructive elements of real freeport storage units and the art collectors who use them, NU Freeport encourages and facilitates its clients to hide and financially speculate on their artworks, a goaded continuation of the pernicious cycle of cultural monopolization practiced by upper echelons of art collectors. For the exhibition Nunes performs as the CEO of the corporation, offering trial runs of his digital art storage services for visitors willing to enter a contractual obligation that gives them ownership, as well as monopolistic viewing and selling rights, of various digital artworks available on site.
Nicholas O’Brien’s interactive work retells the origin story of salesforce.com as a point-and-click misadventure. Viewers navigate around a small apartment where memory, personal history, fiction, and the cryptic language of contemporary startups collide. Though many encounters within the work are pulled from research conducted by O’Brien, In the Hollow of the Valley treats the birth of “software as a service” as if it were a tragic fantasy. As a result, viewers will experience a space both intimate yet absent; a room that is simultaneously familiar and alienating.
Alexander Reben explores humanity through the lens of art and technology. His work deals with human-machine relationships, synthetic psychology, artificial philosophy and robot ethics among other topics. Using “art as experiment” his work allows for the viewer to experience the future within metaphorical contexts. His artwork and research has been shown and published internationally and he consults with major companies guiding innovation for the social machine future.
Daniel Temkin makes images, programming languages, and interactive pieces that use the machine as a place of confrontation between human thought and logic. Internet Directory is a single loose-leaf book of 37,743 pages, collectively listing all 115 million .COM domains in alphabetic order, phonebook style. Internet Directory was studies the language of the Internet and to present it in a poetic form. The first version included only domains beginning with the word "serious." After looking through serious-awning-information.com, seriousaboutpoker.com, seriousgayguysinaustinlookingforlove.com and every other variation, the word began to lose meaning. From there, the artist expanded the project to look at the whole of .COM. Nearly every English word is run down in a similar way, invoking a uniquely commercial semantic satiation where every iteration that has potential commercial value is enumerated.
Ubermorgen tenaciously convert code & language and concept & aesthetics into digital objects, software art, net.art, installation, new painting, videos, press- releases and actions. Currently there are 362 names on the 'Killliste'. The list is a fluid technical object consisting of data particles travelling anonymously and encrypted through our networks. There simply is no point in trying to explain the correct thing to the wrong people. We select targets because we think the world is better off if they and their family and acquaintances are killed!
An important part of the work of Michel Winterberg is to involve the viewer in the artwork actively. The focus is on the use of interactive technologies with an artistic debate as well as a critical and humorous view towards media technology and its use in society.
Image: Dominion, Jennifer & Kevin McCoy, 2014 - courtesy of the artists