Thoughts are Free

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“Die Gedanken sind frei” (The Thoughts are Free) – a German folk song that has been sung many times as an expression of resistance to oppression. The author and composer are unknown. Does the song take on a new meaning when it comes from the “mouth” of an artificial intelligence? What new verses would the intelligence invent in “its sense”? I let ChatGPT write new verses for this thought experiment. Only the first and last verses are identical to the traditional song. The lip-sync animation was also done with the help of artificial intelligence.

Deep Paradise

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The apple was and is highly symbolic in many cultures: be it as a symbol of eternal youth, eternal life, love, fertility, paradise and the fall of mankind.

In this installation, a golden apple floats in the air like a fixed star. Familiar places are reflected on its shiny surface. How are people doing there and in the world?
In contrast, the two-dimensional portraits in this landscape appear strange. Who are these people? The Holy Family? Our neighbours? They never existed, but are the outputs of an artificial intelligence. We live in a time of upheaval. New technologies give us the feeling that we are increasingly losing control over truth and lies, over good and evil.
Is this paradise on earth?

The apple hides a secret inside, because there is a small star made up of 5 seeds. It reminds us that our actions determine whether we come a little closer to “paradise on earth”.

Site-specific installation.

Deep Paradise @ St.Konrad / Augsburg-Bärenkeller, 2023, video with sound, 6:07 min

Szene aus einem Video der Künstlerin Erika Kassnel-Henneberg

Avalon 1+2

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The (golden) apple was and is highly symbolic in many cultures: be it as a symbol for eternal youth, eternal life, for love, fertility, paradise and the fall of man, and most recently as an “item” in the popular game Minecraft. The word “Avalon” has many meanings, but here it refers to the island of Avalon (Gallic-Indo-Germanic abal = apple) from Celtic mythology, which was regarded as paradise.

In an indeterminate room under a blue sky, we circle around two faceless avatars with a golden apple in the middle. Like in a surreal dream, we find ourselves in an endless loop in which the figures display a strange behaviour. Everything seems to revolve around this apple, which in the end remains out of reach for everyone.

1+2: Both videos show the same scene, but from different angles.

This video installation is modified site-specifically. The idea is that the virtual space shows the immediate exhibition environment.

Videokunst von Erika Kassnel-Henneberg

Post Mortem

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“(…) It is difficult to define the spatial dimensions of memory. It is there, the room of my childhood, which I am still tidying and which is still dying, at the same time as its inhabitants, – their mortal shell.. (…)” Tadeusz Kantor

An abandoned house*. The rooms testify that people once lived here. There, reality and fiction, present and past merge with each other. As if in a nightmare, we rush through the rooms and are repeatedly confronted with an old class photo. On the back of the real photo is written: “Born in 1911”. Who were these people? Does anyone still remember them? I lend them my eyes and let them come alive again post mortem. An artificial liveliness – a lifeline against oblivion?

In the midst of these children I (Erika) sit as a link between yesterday and today and think aloud about the fear of disappearance – or can being forgotten also be a grace? The children’s song “When and where will we meet again and be glad?” must remain unanswered.

* This house is the “House of New Realities” – a temporary collective artwork at Bäckergasse 4 – a kind of pop-up museum, which was brought to life by Bluespots Productions in the summer of 2023 as part of the Augsburg Peace Festival. I modified the installation “Post Mortem” for this location. Thus, that one has now itself become a memorandum for those who once animated this place.

Puppet

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2023, video with sound, 3:15 min

The tempting offer of AI-supported applications is increasing. With their help, memory photos are brought “to life”.
Does this bring us closer to the person we remember? Or are we creating something else – something new? Something uncanny?

“Anna” really did exist once. A caption on the back of this photograph tells us that it was addressed to someone who was supposed to remember his “little friend Hela”.

Music: AI-generated

ChatGPT @ Uncanny Valley

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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.”

Polaroid, Screenshot aus der Videoarbeit Sandbox

Sandbox

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Sandbox is on the one hand a sandy playground for children, on the other hand a term originating from software development for an “isolated area within which any action has no effect on the external environment”. (Wikipedia)

We are sitting in a large virtual sandbox that is anything but isolated. There are many toys in it that we don’t know what they are for. And new ones are added every day. We explore them playfully and in the process we come up with ideas – good or bad….

One such toy is Dall-e 2, one of the most celebrated AIs of 2022, which can create realistic images and even artwork from a text-based description in natural language. This creative act is new and unique, and must be judged as the next stage of evolution.

The works Dall-e generates are almost perfect, and yet she generates strangely disturbing outputs in response to seemingly innocuous keywords. It begs the question, is this the toy we would give our children?

Drum Bun Spacial Installation

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Drum Bun, 7-part work, collage, SanDepot-Halle, Aichach 2014

The room installation shows 7 processed sheets of paper hanging from the ceiling by a thread. Every breeze created by a passing visitor causes the sheets of paper to rotate, so that they cannot always be seen in their entirety. The result is an overall picture that is fragmentary and constantly changing – just like a memory.

Deep Paula

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“People take photos of each other- to prove that they really existed” from: Menschen machen Fotos gegenseitig. Song text. Die Goldenen Zitronen (German Punk band) 1994

Our relationship with our own image is ambivalent: selfies show that we were at grandma’s birthday party, and at the same time we can manipulate our portrait photo beyond recognition with a single click. The technical possibilities are endless and are becoming ever more perfect thanks to AI-supported applications.

In this work, we are confronted with an old photo that has been “brought to life” with the help of artificial intelligence. Does the girl seem authentic? Do we feel closer to her? Is the illusion convincing? What becomes of faulty memory when it gives way to artificial vividness?

Doesn’t this illusion rather contribute to forgetting the last remnants of the memory of the real person?

And would “Paula” have liked what we do with her memory?

Music: AI-generated

“Paula’s” real portrait photo can be found in the work Below the Surface (Book Object).

Survey:

Would you consider bringing a photo of a deceased loved one to “life” using an AI application? Yes? / No?

analogue real-time visualisation of the survey in the exhibition Uncanny Valley, New Gallery in the Höhmannhaus, Augsburg 2023

Conditio Humana II

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Following on from the work Conditio Humana I, the question of what the conditio humana is is continued here. Another aspect, in my opinion, is the ability of absolute body control. As distinct from artificial intelligence, it is physicality in combination with emotion and elegance.

In this work, complex human movements in the form of a dance are contrasted with the humanoid robot HRP-4C, as it was presented to the world public in 2010.

Dancer: Dominik Feistmantl