Rabbit Hole 4.0

This short film was made as part of my bachelor thesis on “Attention Engineering in Social Media”. It metaphorically describes the internet as a large experimental laboratory in which users are manipulated like “guinea pigs” with the help of psychological “weapons”.

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.

Similar to the “real” conversations in social networks, the main character “Suzanne” is represented by statements written in “real time” and fades into the background as a physical person. The camera thereby takes her point of view. This constellation results in three scenic levels in the film: 1.) the “virtual space”, which is at the same time the stage; 2.) the screen surface, on which Suzanne’s text messages appear; 3.) the invisible space in front of the screen, in which we sit together with Suzanne and follow the story.

In the first two parts, Suzanne is confronted with an anthropomorphic voice computer as an antagonist that can only be heard. The reversal of states, namely the dematerialisation of the human “Suzanne” and the humanisation of the robot “David” – only he has a voice – creates a discrepancy in the viewer’s expectations that is very suspenseful.

The action is accompanied by a fly. Through its presence, it repeatedly draws attention to itself and thus demonstrates “attention engineering” in a penetrating way. The fly as the physical “protagonist” in the film illustrates the absurdity of the situation, because it belongs to both the real and the virtual world, and it is both perpetrator (draws attention to itself) and victim (dies) at the same time.

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

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StartVideo ArtPage 2

It sounds like the short form of mother, but this is Google’s new AI Multitask Unified Model – “MUM” for short – which has been consistently learning since 2021 what the intentions are behind our questions, no matter what language we speak. This enables it to answer even faster and more precisely. MUM knows what we want. We can ask her anything.

An organic something, similar to an eye, scans the surroundings like a surveillance camera. It is MUM. A surveillance monitor is reflected in her “eye”. It is footage of me and with me as a mother who accompanies her children with the camera – or better: monitors them? Are we similar?

With every search query, MUM learns to understand us better. Will she soon know more about us than we know about ourselves? What is she? Mother or monster?

“Secretly, we are all just looking for a higher authority.
Someone to tell us what the hell to do.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung, Update für die Übermutter vom 29.8.2021

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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?

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The basis of this work are 25 photographs in long exposure, which were taken during a dance rehearsal. Like modules, they are rearranged and repeated by me. This creates an artificial, seemingly endless dance that no longer has anything to do with the original choreography.

Following the Baroque model, beauty and death are metaphorically juxtaposed here – a vanitas dance to the transience of life. Here, the flow of time or the passing of lifetime is embodied by water, whether through the acoustic, rhythmic dripping like the ticking of a clock, or visually through the artificially slowed flow of a river.

The video is accompanied by the excerpt The Burial of the Dead from the poem The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot (1922).

Dancer: Dominik Feistmantl

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A friend gave me this old album of her family. It touches me that she wanted to throw it away a long time ago. Because the people in the photos have no meaning for her, she says. But she hasn’t had the heart to do it yet. Doesn’t this prove that all our efforts for a little immortality are in vain?

Now I hold it in my hands and wonder, if someone could tell the stories of these people, would these memories be true? They would be remembered stories or told memories of stories of memories….

Science has taught us that the subconscious manipulates memory to make it useful to us. But if memory is distorted more and more from person to person, what comes out in the end? Would these stories therefore only be uncontrollable mirages of an inner archaic power?

“People take photos of each other
To prove that they really existed
To make sure they are there
People take photos of each other
Believing that those moments
Would stay alive for all time”

Excerpt from: Menschen Machen Fotos gegenseitig, Die goldenen Zitronen (Songtext)
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Brother of Sleep

Because one thing is stronger than us, and that is the eternal progression of time, which never stops and inevitably leads to death.”

Christian Boltanski

Four faceless dancers perform a ghostly, seemingly endlessly repeating dance. As in a baroque painting, beauty and death (= the brother of sleep) are juxtaposed here in an aestheticizing manner in one composition – a memento mori – underpinned by Johann Sebastian Bach’s Kreuzstabkantate “Komm o Tod, du Schlafes Bruder” (Come, O death, thou brother of sleep). The butterfly as a baroque metaphor combines both in an impressive way: Beauty, transience, death and resurrection.

The basis of this work are 12 photographs in long exposure. Their constructed sequence in rapid succession creates an artificial choreography that becomes increasingly distorted.

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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.

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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.

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Childhood Must Be Beautiful

Reflecting on the myth of “motherhood”.

What does it mean to be a “good” mother?

Who defines the standard?

For centuries, the image of the mother has been shaped in every culture by religiously motivated ideals, of which Mary is the Western role model. She embodies male power fantasies of chastity, submissiveness, selflessness and unconditional loyalty – qualities that still shape the image of women in almost every patriarchal society today.

This image is fragile and increasingly beginning to dissolve. Women want to be self-determined.
But what does it mean to be a “good” mother?
Reflecting on the myth of “motherhood”…

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