I recently had the opportunity to present my robotic sound installation ‘Do You Like Cyber?’ – part of my ongoing research in Critical Media Practice – at Rome’s MAXXI – National Museum of the 21st Century Arts for the exhibition ‘Low Form. Imaginaries and Visions in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,’ curated by Bartolomeo Pietromarchi.
‘Do You Like Cyber?’ is composed of three parametric speakers attached to swiveling robotic arms. Playing with the idea of deceitful messages, the speakers broadcast a series of short audio messages that were used by bots on the dating website Ashley Madison, which I retrieved after the site was hacked. These bots were programmed to engage the website’s users in online chats, getting them to subscribe to the website’s services. Despite the fact that the bots were designed to only contact males, they didn’t always function as they should have. This work focuses on a series of insubordinate bots that, in a post-anthropocentric fashion, displayed anarchic and unpredictable behaviors, such as chatting with each other for no apparent reason or contacting female users even if they weren’t programmed to do so.
With ‘Do you like Cyber?’ I wanted to put the autonomy and interaction between artificial entities at the center, while leaving humans only partially aware of their presence. For this reason, I decided to use unpredictable robotic arms and parametric speakers, which radiate sound in single focused directions rather than in all directions like traditional speakers. Additionally, their sound bounces off hard surfaces such as walls, creating virtual sound sources and making it difficult to detect its origin.
As an artist and researcher, I am particularly interested in exhibition formats that encourage theoretical reflection, and I also contributed to the exhibition catalogue, edited by CURA, with a short speculative text entitled “What is it like for a computer bot to be a computer bot?”.
A big thanks goes to GALLLERIAPIÙ for its backing, to FabLab Bologna Makeinbo for its technical supervision, to Kevin Ramsay for the sound editing, to Annalee Newitz for her fundamental insights on Ashley Madison’s data, and, obviously, to Harvard University – Critical Media Practice for its continuous support.
Featured artists in the show: Zach Blas & Jemima Wyman, Carola Bonfili, Ian Cheng, Cécile B. Evans, Pakui Hardware, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Nathaniel Mellors & Erkka Nissinen, Trevor Paglen, Agnieszka Polska, Jon Rafman, Lorenzo Senni, Avery K Singer, Cheyney Thompson, Luca Trevisani, Anna Uddenberg and Emilio Vavarella.