Connections

I just discovered my new (old) favourite documentary series. It is titled Connections and it was aired by the BBC in 1978 an 1979. The series was written, and presented by British science historian James Burke. “It took an interdisciplinary approach to the history of science and invention, and demonstrated how various discoveries, scientific achievements, and historical world events were built from one another successively in an interconnected way to bring about particular aspects of modern technology.
And to my immense surprise and delight, I also read that the series is coming back, 45 years later, with a brand new season.

The Library of Babel in VRChat

A programmer named Mahu recreated the layout of the Library of Babel, as described by Jorge Luis Borges as an infinite home for every possible book, in the virtual reality platform VRChat.

“The Library does things that are only possible in virtual reality,” explains Mahu. “It contradicts the laws of euclidean coordinate systems, allowing you to seamlessly traverse what I call fractal space. So in a way my take on the library is perhaps more infinite than Borges’ had imagined.”

[via + via]

Literally No Place

Hello baby dolls, it’s the final boss of vocal fry here. Daniel Felstead’s glossy Julia Fox avatar is back. Last time she took on Zuckerberg’s Metaverse. Now she takes us on a journey into the AI utopian versus AI doomer cyberwarfare bedlam, exploring the stakes, fears, and hopes of all sides. Will AI bring about the post-scarcity society that Marx envisioned, allowing us all to live in labor-less luxury, or will it quite literally extinguish the human race?

Literally No Place, brand new video(art) essay by Daniel Felstead & Jenn Leung

This is serious we could make you delirious

A lovely PSA commercial for kids about the dangers of pills. Produced in the 1980’s by the Poison Control Center.
The song is titled “We’re Not Candy!”

We could make you delirious (delirious).
You should have a healthy fear of us (fear of us).
Too much of us is dangerous (no no no no).

Doctors tell the pharmacies (pharmacies)
Types of pills that you will need (you will need).
And they know the harm that we can be (we can be)
If we’re not taken carefully (no no no no).

We’re not candy (believe us!)
Even though we look so fine and dandy.
When you’re sick we come in handy, but
We’re not candy… ohhh, no.

Lore Island at the end of the internet

For the final chapter of Shumon Basar’s Lorecore Trilogy (read the first part here, and the second here), the curator collaborated with Y7, a duo based in Salford, England, who specialize in theory and audiovisual work. Here is the result.

Here, according to a neologism from “The Lexicon of Lorecore,” the zeitgeist is taken over by “Deepfake Surrender”—“to accept that soon, everyone or everything one sees on a screen will most likely have been generated or augmented by AI to look and sound more real than reality ever did.” Y7 and I also agreed that, so far, most material outputted from generative AI apps (ChatGPT, DALL-E, Midjourney) is decidedly mid. But, does it have to be?

Well Wishes My Love, Your Love

This short animated film is absolutely mesmerizing.

Newly orphaned and freshly wounded from a loss, a boy lends his friend a prosthetic arm for the day. The friend records the limb being exposed to different textures and materials, documenting the process. As the moon inches closer and closer towards the sun, the friend sees something unusual reflected on the water’s surface… What will become of the limb, and of the video recordings?

Animation and music by GABRIEL GABRIEL GARBLE

The PriceMaster

Please take some time to watch this incredible piece of performance art. On Saturday, February 10, 2001, in Denton, Texas, a group of friends held a garage sale where all of the (absurd) prices were determined by “The Price Master“, a mysterious masked figure on a tiny stage.

This review on Letterboxd describe this little gem really well (via BroBible):

Very surreal and very unnerving little piece of public access gold focused on a stoop sale as performance art in Denton, Texas, around 2001. My friend texted me the link and said “If you have five minutes, check this out,” and I ended up watching all 30 minutes of it. Shot on a handheld video camera, vérité style, it documents unsuspecting customers finding themselves at a stoop sale in which nothing is labeled with a price and a strange figure, the Pricemaster, dictates outrageous prices for everything when inquired. “Five… HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS!”

I also appreciated the Marshall McLuhan‘s quotes at the beginning:

“Environments are not passive wrappings, but are, rather, active processes which are invisible. The groundrules, pervasive structure, and over-all patterns of environments elude easy perception. Anti-environments, or counter situations made by artists, provide means of direct attention and enable us to see and understand more clearly.”

“Humor as a system of communications and as a probe of our environment–of what’s really going on–affords us our most appealing anti-environmental tool. It does not deal in theory, but in immediate experience, and is often the best guide to changing perceptions.”

[thanks Claudio for pointing me to this video]

Hardly Working

“NPCs are digital Sisyphus machines that have no perspective of breaking out of their activity loops. In the moments when the algorithm shows inconsistencies, the NPCs break out of the logic of total normality, and appear touchingly human.”

A short film by Total Refusal (full version on NYT)

Blind Cameras

 

I just came across Paragraphica, an interesting project by Bjørn Karmann. It is a camera that uses location data and AI to visualize a “photo” of a specific place and moment. The viewfinder displays a real-time description of your current location, and by pressing the trigger, the camera will create a photographic representation of that description.

It reminded me of two similar new media art projects from past, that I also displayed in a couple of exhibitions I curated (in 2010 and 2012).

The first one is Blinks & Buttons by Sascha Pohflepp, a camera that has no lens. It tracks the exact time that the button is pushed, and then goes out and searches for another image taken at that exact time. Once the camera finds one, it displays the image in the LCD located on the back.

The second one is Matt Richardson‘s Descriptive Camera, a device that only outputs the metadata about the content and not the content itself.

update 29/04/24: Kelin Carolyn Zhang and Ryan Mather designed the Poetry Camera, an open source technology that generates a poem based on a photo.

Confusing Bots

Confuse A Bot is an upcoming in-browser video game where all you have to do is convince the robots that literally everything is cheese. Here’s how creator Rajeev Basu describes the game:

“AI is only as good as its datasets. CONFUSE A BOT is a ‘public service videogame’ that invites players to verify images incorrectly, to confuse bots, and help save humanity from an AI apocalypse. While key figures in AI like Sam Altman have sounded the alarm many times, there has been little action beyond “lively debates” and petitions signed by high-ranking CEOs. Confuse A Bot questions: what if we put the power back into the hands of the people?
How the game works:
– The game pulls in images from the Internet, and asks players to verify them.
– Players verify images incorrectly. The more they do, the more points they get.
– The game automatically re-releases the incorrectly verified images online, for AI to scrape and absorb, thereby helping save humanity from an AI takeover. It’s that easy!”

[via]

 

The Stuntman

Ormer Locklear was a stunt pilot who made movies for Hollywood. This pic is from his second movie (The Skywayman, 1920) which he was the star of and did his own stunts for. He pulled this stunt off successfully, but he died doing a different stunt on the last day of filming. They used the footage of his crash in the movie. The movie is currently lost.