Thoughts are Free

“Thoughts are free” – a German folk song that has been sung time and again as an expression of resistance to oppression. Does the song take on a new meaning when it comes from the “mouth” of an artificial intelligence? However, only the first and last verses are original. Further verses were added, which ChatGPT “composed” itself.

ChatGPT @ Uncanny Valley

Startnarrative
2023, Video with Sound, Animation, 5:17 min, Chat history from 6.02.2023

What ChatGPT has to say about the “Uncanny Valley”.

What or who is ChatGPT? I asked “him” this question, to which “he” replied the following:

“I am an artificial intelligence model trained by OpenAI. My answers are based on the information I recorded during my training process. During this training, I was fed an enormous amount of text from a variety of sources, including books, journal articles, news reports and scientific studies. In this way I was able to develop a broad understanding of many different topics and areas of expertise(…). However, it is important to note that I am not able to gather my own experience and that my answers may not always be complete or 100% accurate. My answers should always be used as a source of information and not as definitive expert advice.”

Rabbit Hole 4.0

Suzanne is lured into a virtual dream world by flashing buttons and the voice assistant on her computer, which promise her a solution to her sleeping problem. In fact, however, she is only part of a large scientific experiment in which the aim is to specifically manipulate her behaviour.

More than one third of the world‘s population is part of the social networking community. Therefore these platforms play an increasing role as economic environments in the online world; and the attention of the user becomes a precious, but scarce resource. But the business model of gratuitious access to these communities hides a significant danger: surveillance and behavior modification by private enterprise companies, who develop powerful tools for manipulation. This new technology is called Attention Engineering. It is composed of interface design, gamification and deep learning, and it utilises psychological aspects of human behavior.

Learn more.

Conditio Humana I

The conditio humana refers to the conditions or circumstances of being human in general. What makes a human being a human being? This question is explored here by an AI in a monologue. One often cited aspect is language, which distinguishes us from animals. But what is the conditio humana that distinguishes us from an artificial intelligence?

The starting point for this work was a report on the radio about a new milestone in the development of artificial intelligence. In 2019, researchers had succeeded for the first time in developing an AI that won in poker against five real professional players.

The special thing about poker is the complexity of strategy calculation, because – unlike in chess, for example – the information is incomplete (hidden hand) and the opponents act unpredictably (concealing one’s own hand and constantly changing strategy in response to opponents). At the same time, the AI must also deceive the opponent in order to win.
All in all, this demands special skills from the AI that catapult it to the next evolutionary level.

If an AI had its own consciousness, what would it do with this ability?

Dancer: Dominic Feistmantl

Premiere: Façade projection in Buenos Aires / Argentina on December 17 2022

Homunculus

2022, video with sound, animation, 6:34 min

The term homunculus (= Latin for “little man”) refers to an artificially created human being – and stands for mankind’s dream of being able to construct a being according to its own imagination, with the help of the latest technology. This idea has already been used in many literary works, for example in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Today, we are closer to this idea than ever before. In the age of Deep Learning, it is no longer alchemists or scientists, but programmers who teach artificial intelligences to generate human-like faces independently and deceptively real. Ingenious, scary or dangerous?

In this work we are confronted with a series of such artificial portraits. In a strange way, they communicate with us: their eyes seem to explore the space and their facial expressions change. Recognising faces and understanding non-verbal communication shapes us as a human species and as social beings. But how do we react when an AI tries to imitate precisely this ability? Does it want to deceive us? Communicate with us? Test us?

Wailing Song

2022, Animation, 7:28 min

Countless small will-o’-the-wisps buzz in this artificial underwater world. They symbolise all the people who drowned between 2014 and 2022 on their flight to Europe. At the bottom of this sea, we listen to the stories of five young refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Gambia. They talk about their families, their flight from violence, their hopes and dreams.

The audio material was made available with the kind permission of the Junges Theater Augsburg.

Mutter und Kind Videostill

Sleep Well, My Love

Is this a bedtime story? Hardly!

“Mother” is a symbol for “care”. But what is the meaning of “care” and “good mother”? Are there universal criteria that are free of socio-cultural conditioning? In fact, the image of the mother is shaped by social conventions that – viewed over time – have not always been the same.

Inspired by an old family album and a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, a story develops here that makes me think and turns my tidy image of motherhood upside down.

Frau geht über Bahngleise Videostill

Garden of Eden

We are the narrative of our own memory and the memory of others about us. Perhaps this is why I loved listening to my father (1932 – 2020) tell me about his childhood – a childhood that, despite hunger and war, he always described in wonderful images. The temporal context is the Second World War, culturally we are in the midst of the community of the Banater Swabians, a German minority in Romania.

In 2014, I decided to record his stories – on the one hand, because I wanted to capture this shared moment; and on the other hand, because his stories are not only documents of time, but also tell something about myself. The interviews are accompanied by my own photographs and video clips from contemporary Romania (2015).

The work “Garden of Eden” is about home as utopia, about childhood as a lost paradise, and about identity fed by narratives.

Utopia Lives Next Door

“25 years after the end of the Cold War, the political distance between Western Europe (e.g. Austria) and Eastern Europe (e.g. Romania) seems to be increasing again in many respects. But this distorts the fact that there is a lot of shared history, which already becomes evident when looking at the parallels between the cities of Vienna and Timisoara. For their piece Utopia lives next door, the authors move through both cities, inspired by the situationist concept of psychogeographical examination of urban environments by means of “dérive” the deliberately drifting walk through a city. The starting point of the excursions are the quarters Innere Stadt and Josefstadt – due to the shared history, both Vienna and Timisoara have districts with these names. From the field recordings thus collected, the authors compose the soundscape of a utopian city in which the difference between West and East has been erased. Woven into the composition are voice recordings from interviewees recalling instances of lived solidarity under difficult social and political circumstances in Vienna and Timisoara during different phases of the 20th century. Based on shared thematic motifs, the quotes are arranged into a quasi-dialogic relation to each other that offers a glimpse of the possibilities that were at hand, but were missed in the actual history of Austria and Romania. The speakers are Friederike Brenner (born in 1923 in Mödling near Vienna) and Johann Kassnel (born 1932 in Jahrmarkt near Timisoara).” (Gerald Fiebig)