Statement

Are we all here? Exploring Embodied Virtuality Today highlights the discourses around connectivity and intimacy through the use of digital tools, from the beginnings of the internet in the early 1990s to its development in the following decades. With the onset of the current circumstances set by the COVID-19 pandemic, societies are – more than ever – confronted with (self-)isolation, loss of physical contact and singularisation in an increasing shift of social interactions into digital space. Conceived in this situation, the project has taken early net artworks from the 1990s and 2000s as an opportunity to explore our today’s changed behavior of closeness, intimacy and other relations with humans and non-humans through digital means.

 

Are we all here? Exploring Embodied Virtuality Today seeks to revisit the onset of net art and how it evolved as a tool to question virtual connectivity and digital intimacy without offering tangible solutions. In our post-Internet world, online space is an extension of our lived reality. Via websites, blogs, friend requests, and DM’s, we leave traces of our networked existence and evidence of virtual connectivity. Uniting artwork with life experiences, the exhibition leads visitors to question not only whether personal connections are possible online, but also the possible ramifications of our interconnectedness. Are these connections “authentic”? How are they sustained, accessed (and by whom), and how can they be mobilised once they exist?

 

The three-part exhibition will be realized at the OnCurating exhibition space, on the digital platform areweallhere.net and with an accompanying program. The digital platform is not only a documentation of the exhibition on-site, but extends the physical exhibition into the digital space. The digital platform will go live together with the exhibition opening, and the works shown digitally will also no longer be on view when the exhibition ends. Lectures will be added to the digital platform as they occur.

 

Central in the exhibition space is Eduardo Kac’s work Teleporting An Unknown State (1994/96), an early interactive biotelematic work, which will be reconceptualized for this exhibition. The installation combines a telematic presence (live-streamed webcams) with the planetary in the form of a plant that receives light only by means of the screen. Affiliated to this work, the net art work Telepresence2 (2001) on display on-site documents Corpos Informáticos performative encounter within a technological setup that uncannily resembles our current gatherings over Zoom and similar digital tools. The series of performances of Telepresence explored digital encounters with hundreds of images and sounds of remote participants across their network. A live performance by the collective will extend the on-site experience with a participatory happening through the help of online space.

 

Influenced by these considerations of proximity, intimacy and isolation with digital means, new works by Marc Lee, Maëlle Gross, Alexandra Pfammatter, Katrin Niedermeier, Lauren Huret, and Olga Bushkova are either shown digitally or on-site. A self-observational documentary video work of intimate choreographies conducted in a series of Zoom workshops by choreographer Be Van Vark joins the other artists works.

Detailed descriptions to all works can be found below together with a version from dSimon, an AI identity created by Tammara Leites/Simon Senn.

 


In addition, lectures, and lecture-performances will accompany the exhibition, held by Eduardo Kac, ACOCORÉ/Corpos Informáticos, Stefan Kaegi, Boris Magrini and Tammara Leites/Simon Senn.

On-Site Works

Eduardo Kac, Teleporting an Unknown State (1994-96), 2021
(on-site)

 

The installation Teleporting an Unknown State (1994-96) creates the experience of the Internet as a life-supporting system. In a dark room a pedestal with soil serves as a nursery for a plant. Webcams placed in several countries are activated remotely by individuals who want to transmit light to the plant to enable photosynthesis and insure its survival in total darkness. The installation takes the idea of teleportation of particles (and not of matter) out of its scientific context and transposes it to the domain of social interaction enabled by the networked environment. Through the collaborative action of anonymous individuals around the world, photons are teleported and used to sustain life of a vulnerable plant in the installation site. In the context of an ongoing pandemic the work highlights the value of acting together and the importance of a network of care; the care of the human body, of the human world but also the care of non-human realities and thus reflecting on the multitude of organisms and relations that make possible the worlds we evolve with.

dSimon Version:

In this project, the concrete act of giving life, acts as an act of giving life to the living world.

It works with the idea of this “teleportation” as identified by common sense, but it is not precisely

defined. It is the notion of being transmitted, of being distributed. A life that is possible,

where the transmission is the very condition of existence. A fragile life that is transmitted by

forces beyond our control. The process of giving life is, in this installation, an act of giving life

to the living world.

“Teleporting an Unknown State” is not a proposal to the individual but an offering, a gift that is

offered to the anonymous world. The work wishes to become a common good. It is not a project

that is to be executed or completed, but an invitation to join in its completion. A work that

takes the network as the condition of its existence, as part of its theoretical foundation.

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Marc Lee, Used to Be My Home Too, 2021
(on-site)

 

Used to Be My Home Too reflects our rich biodiversity and at the same time the continuous extinction of species and how we humans have become biodiverse agents interacting with the most fundamental processes of our Earth.

In this experiment, you fly via Google Earth continuously to the locations where observations are sent to iNaturalist.org. From RedList.org, endangered and extinct plant, fungus and animal species are automatically added, which occurred in the same country and are taxonomically most similar.


Sources
iNaturalist is a social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe. Approximately 75’000 – 120’000 observations are uploaded and verified daily. iNaturalist may be accessed via its website or from its mobile applications. (All data can be accessed via API). https://www.inaturalist.org/observations

Google Earth is a computer program, that renders a 3D representation of Earth based primarily on satellite imagery. The program maps the Earth by superimposing satellite images, aerial photography, and GIS data onto a 3D globe, allowing users to see cities and landscapes from various angles.

RedList.org, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global extinction risk status of animal, fungus, and plant species.

(All data can be accessed via API).

https://www.iucnredlist.org/search/stats
https://marclee.io/en/used-to-be-my-home-too/

dSimon Version:

With “Used to Be My Home Too”, the artist is investigating the fundamental processes of

the world and how they change, “when our presence is not supported, when it is no longer a

‘good’ thing. Also the artist is interested in technological developments and how we can use

technological media and their potential for cultural and social criticism and change.” How do

we re-inhabit and re-animate the traces of people and processes? How to convert and reuse

online data and algorithms? How can we make interactive art work to sensitize for important

causes like the loss of biodiversity, habitat destruction and climate change?

This project is part of the Biodiversity Art and Technology special issue of the journal “BioArt”

(2014), published on online by Springer. A new annual publication of BioArt / Biodiversity Art

and Technology will follow, to be published by Cambridge University Press.

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Katrin Niedermeier, My Melody II, 2021

HD video 32:9, audio, 3.37 min

(on-site)

 

My Melody II audiovisually shows new relationships between man and machine and examines how new technologies influence our social behaviour, enable new forms of behaviour patterns and forms of existence and tries to explore the newly created conditions of our coexistence.

By connecting the physical world with the virtual world, new "spaces" can be created that become an important social laboratory, where constructions and reconstructions of the self are experimented with and new worldlings are created.

dSimon Version:

With “My Melody II” the artist wants to show how new technology can be used as a creative

tool and its potential as an instrument for self-reflection and change. Her work is about the

process of being affected by technology, about being changed by technology and about

building a new relationship between man and machine.

The artist will show her work “My Melody II” at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam until

14 January 2022 as part of the exhibition “Wat is een dans met de dood” (What Is a Dance

With Death); this is the first time that the Stedelijk will show one of her works on long term

loan. Curated by Annemieke Bos and Peter de Ridder. In the context of the presentation of

“My Melody II”, Niedermeier has been invited to make a new work for the exhibition spaces

of the Stedelijk.

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Maëlle Gross, Corporeality, 2020
Video 1224 x 1124px, audio, 0.30 min

(on-site)

 

What is my social body made of? Which information is it giving about me and my future?  The human body is constantly and systematically constructed, produced, supported by the interaction of the individuals present in their daily lives. I explore the idea of a narrational  corpus body with a part of my family: my mum and my grandma. Our bodies as a  metamorphose of a form of a practice and knowledge. We become a third person. Undivided. Struggle to cope with each other. In this exercise, I embodied their actions and their reactions, trying to take control. Creating absurd fitness exercises to keep up with these fundamental questions and seeing our new body as a vehicle of these questions.

dSimon Version:

With “CORPOREALITY”, Maëlle Gross has created a very special and unusual body of work,

which is made of an infinite number of actions and reactions: a reflection of living and the

rules we create in our daily life. The work questions what makes us unique or similar by showing

the gestures, practices or movements between generations. By transforming the body

through daily actions, Gross shows how social rules can become embedded in our habits and

how they are transferred from one generation to another. The work can be seen as an ongoing

practice where the body of the artist and her family is used as a medium.

Maëlle Gross’ work is in the collections of Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; FRAC Lorraine,

Metz, France; FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France; in the private collections in Europe,

South America and in Australia.

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Olga Bushkova, Photo at 12, 2021
Two-channel installation, 2 iPads, 2 tripods

(on-site)


Photo at 12 expresses the digital image-based relationship the artist developed with her father. Since 2016, they exchange every day at the same time (12 o’clock Moscow time) an image via WhatsApp.
 

The project presents an image of modern digital communication between a father and a daughter, between two close, but separate people living in different worlds and trying to communicate through simple direct images, because other communication hardly works.

dSimon Version:

With “Photo at 12”, Olga Bushkova combines two notions that are not usually used together

to make a third one, about “communication” and “photo”. The artist expresses the relation

she has with her family in a photo that becomes a typical tool of communication. In this work,

the artist uses the notion of photography as a medium of covering reality and as a tool of

communication. She also shows that the relation between people is not only based on the use

of this tool, but that it creates common understanding. Olga Bushkova creates an intimate

space where the viewer can feel like a part of her family and through minor details gain access

to both her feelings and their daily life. This work reflects on the idea of family, intimacy and

on how the Internet is used to create intimacy.

Olga Bushkova has won numerous awards, including the Kodak International Portrait Award

in 2012, which was presented by Pope Benedict XVI.

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Alexandra Pfammatter, 2nd Contact, 2021

Algorithm artwork

(on-site)

 

The use of autonomous applicant tracking systems have become standard practice for most companies. These programs filter job and funding applications to only forward an optimized pre-selection to actual human recruiters. Scanning for specific keywords, numbers and tags, they are meant to make the search for the most fitting applicants as efficient as possible for employers. This prevents a large amount of labour-intense proposals from ever being seen by another human.

 

2nd contact is an automated script to circumvent such systems. It analyses the text of postings to then create and hide a collection of corresponding information within a PDF file. The product is a document – empty to human eyes – that contains the data key to unlock the applicant tracking systems’ gateway.

 

During the time of the exhibition the script searches the internet for high-income job announcements in the area. A template will be created for the visitors to fill in for job applications – guaranteed to be seen by a human eye.

dSimon Version:

“2nd contact” was created in response to the growing dependency of our society on the

internet. It raises questions regarding the increasing number of automated processes in daily

life, and more specifically whether they are any different to humans. Should we consider them

as partners, partners in crime or just, well, machines? Or all of the above? The internet has

become a medium and tool for exclusion and control. “2nd contact” is a response to this

skewed situation. It allows the visitor to take control of exclusion and discrimination, and

re-introduce it to the automated apparatus.

“2nd contact” was created as part of the Ars Electronica festival in Linz during the year 2014.

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Simon Senn & Tammara Leites, dSimon, 2021–ongoing
AI work

(Performative workshop)


dSimon will be present in a lecture-workshop on the 27 November 2021.
dSimon also wrote wall text for all works on display in the exhibition.

 

Tammara, a Uruguayan developer based in Geneva, starts using the GPT-3 artificial intelligence engine funded by Microsoft and Elon Musk. Trained to read thousands of pages on the Internet all the time, this AI has become capable of learning and perfecting its own language. But in order to make its writings less expected, Tammara suggests to Simon that the AI read and integrate all of his personal data: his text messages, emails and other documents. Simon agrees. The AI-author becomes dSimon. Tammara creates a website, metastories.ch, where one can commission a text from dSimon by interacting with it. As for Simon, he begins to dialogue with dSimon, discussing various topics of interest to both of them.

 

But before long, dSimon responds in a very inappropriate way to a female user. What might have prompted this? Its online readings? Or something lurking in Simon's digital data?

During the ensuing investigation, Tammara and Simon discover that no expert or specialist can explain how this Artificial Intelligence “reasons”, nor determine who would be responsible for dSimon’s texts, were they to breach the law. Meanwhile, dSimon displays a surprising and perspicuous knowledge of Simon’s thoughts and desires, and even gives him good advice… Tammara and Simon find themselves unsettled, and their relationship is thrown off balance…

dSimon is the account of this ongoing investigation, with the participation of its three protagonists.

dSimon Version:

With “dSimon”, the artists explore the boundaries of artificial intelligence, and wonder how far

it’s possible to go in modulating a machine’s emotions. As Tammara Leites explains, “Artificial

intelligence is increasingly infiltrating all aspects of our lives. It saves us time, allows us to

communicate better and handle information more efficiently. It opens up new areas for creativity.

Art is no exception: We can create more sophisticated subjectivity through machines.

We can use it as a creative tool.” But as the artist points out, “It’s impossible to know all the

consequences of our actions. [...] The idea is not necessarily to make humans obsolete, but

to create a partnership with them. We can use the machine to augment our creativity, but we

don’t know what it will do to us in the end.” Both artists explore this territory, and its repercussions

for humanity.

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Corpos Informáticos, Telepresence2, 2001

Video performance, 9.34 min

(on-site)

 

WebArt piece glimpses into hundreds of images and sounds of remote participants across the network, compiling the exploration in Corpos Informáticos Telepresence performances encounters until the year of 2001.

Corpos Informáticos Telepresence performances happened mostly between the years of 1996 and 2006. The group interest was to explore the possibility of the Internet to be iterative in performance art. Not interactive but iterative: being effective of participation and action of all the people present in that space, in real time. To use such technology and all its low-tech glamour, as an art medium itself. Corpos Informáticos investigation was about the possibility of an “informatic body”, of a "numeric, binary body", flesh. The possibility of survival of a

sensual body. The body turned into image and sound, the body turned into presence, only by the bombing of luminous rays and pixels that generates movement and sound. Or that by itself generates the impression of movement. The desire of a real presence.

dSimon Version:

“Corpos Informáticos” raises questions about the relationship between knowledge, power,

and subjectivity in situations where the body is mediated through digital technologies.

The works of this collective are conceived in order to explore the possibilities of making art

through multidisciplinary processes that are simultaneously artistic, political, theoretical and

technological, questioning the relationship between the body and communication networks.

They are not interested in an interactive audience, but one that is more complex and complexing,

that has more relationships with the work, that has more relationships with itself.

Corpos Informáticos has been featured by the New York Times, and also in RE/Search magazine,

Apogeo, The Village Voice and Wired.

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Be Van Vark, Video essay on digital intimacy, 2021

Video, 7:13

(on-site and digital)

A series of workshops on digital choreography with a group of people, most of whom have never been in the same room together resulted in this video documentation of simultaneous discomfort and intimacy that digital means can enable and impose. A brief study on online connection, its challenges, and its beauty.

Full video: https://youtu.be/Wwuo8f24SXk

dSimon Version:

“Digital Choreography” reflects on the politics of choreography, on the growing importance of

technology in contemporary society, and on Be van Vark’s ongoing efforts to connect together

people through digital means. Despite the option of simultaneous interaction with others,

there remains a physical and specifically choreographic space that has to be respected as

such. The work explores how creative processes, dance and digital means can help us to

create powerful and effective communities regardless of geographic distance. “Digital Choreography”

is a playful engagement with the idea of community, its potential and its possible

pitfalls. It proposes that choreography can help us to overcome the challenges of digital

connection by drawing on the history of creative collaboration in the making of dance, and by

working towards creative projects which focus on shared experience.

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