Early sculptors started with materials they found close at hand – stone, wood, clay, marble – moving to manufactured items like cloth, plastic, and glue as society evolved. It’s no surprise then that today’s sculptors are experimenting with coding, algorithms and AI to make their work. Each year the Lumen longlist includes sculptors who use technology to create their work and each year, as technology advances, we see the 3D/Interactive category shift and change.
Having watched this process over the past 8 years, it’s a real pleasure to find an artist like Fabio Lantanzi Antinori’s on this year’s longlist. His submission, Masters and Slaves (Diptych) Facebook and Google Alphabet, is beautifully made but also reflects on the increasing use of AI and algorithmic systems in today’s society, reflecting how these complex and continuously evolving systems are becoming both difficult to understand and, at the same time, responsible for crucial processes and decisions.
Masters and Slaves focuses on a phenomenon known as micro-flash crashes, which happen when the share price of a company falls within the space of millionths of seconds. It has been connected to illicit forms of speculation on the financial market, made available by ultrafast technology and the fact that the large majority of trade operations is nowadays operated by machines with very little human control.
“Despite being very common, micro-flash crashes are still pretty mysterious and not present in the news,” he says. The largest one to date, the 2010 flash crash, was reported on, but still nobody really knows for sure what caused it.
Beliefs and Shared Values
Fabio was born in Rome and received a MFA in Computational Studio Arts from Goldsmiths, London. He was living in Berlin in 2006 and was meant to come to London for a few months. “Instead I fell in love with the city and decided to stay. Looking back at the way things went, I can see that it was no coincidence,” he says.
His work is strongly influenced by the idea of belief, faith and the notion of shared value. “When I was studying at Goldsmiths, I was already making works around the idea of money and technology. This was probably inspired by the fact that I was living in London, one of the capitals of international finance and technology.”
He continues: “I am fascinated by how we choose to believe in invisible things, like money in example, and how things go on to create these extremely complex systems of relationships that feel so real, until we realise they exist only because we choose to believe they do.”.
Happily, Fabio has found that curators are responding to his work – with two shows in China coming up and a new artwork recently installed at the Petach Tikva Museum of Art in Tel Aviv. (See main image above.) Called Temporarily Enslaved Gods, the work features three sculptures in steel and silkscreen prints made with acrylic and electric paint.
When the audience touches the surface of the prints, they hear the voices of three AI bots talking about data policies, digital monopolies, free information, fake news etc. They look like they are talking to the audience, but in reality, they are having a conversation between them.
Normally, AI machines learn to understand human language by being trained with huge examples of human-to-human conversations (interviews, movie scripts etc). But in this case, he created and used a database with transcripts of the last five years of US Congress hearings and investigations involving Facebook, Amazon and Google.
“I did this with the hope that those very same AI bots might learn from the confessions of those digital giants and help us understand whether or not they have a hidden agenda,” he says.
Every week a piece of code sends the text they have created to an online AI system called Watson created by IBM, that in turns tries to create a personality profile for each one of the bots, assessing levels of openness, agreeability and emotionality as if they were real humans.
In sum, sculpture with a life of its own.
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