An Artwork on the Intersection
of Art and Science

by

Diemut Strebe

Author concept, design, drawing, text and audio

in collaboration with AI Specialist:

Steve DiPaola

AI drawing & languages systems

Gaines Semler acting Socrates

With many thanks to Gary Marcus for AI consulting and to the Aichi Triennale for their support

EL TURCO

El Turco presents a large scale (8x3m) triptych video installation. We see two digital hand-drawn animated avatars projected at the two sides of the screen. Their spoken dialog appears as continuously evolving text at the center screen. One of the avatars, called Socrates, is operated directly by a human with regards to gestures, facial movements of the avatar and speech generation, hiding inside the system, as a kind of “ghost whisperer”.

The setup is similar to the “Mechanical Turk”, an automated chess player that surprised the 18th century aristocrat courts, but later appeared to hide a human player. The second avatar, called von Kempelen, is creating speech through a natural language processing AI system. We use customized statistic based probabilistic language models called Large Language Models such as GPT-2, -3 or ChatGPT are.

Von Kempelen seems to evoke allusions to what French philosopher Jean Baudrillard describes as simulacrum: a system that generates a world of symbols and signs without any original reference. Despite the machine displaying impressive and surprising capabilities in mimicking knowledge and understanding, the effortless “talking machine” reveals itself to be an advanced computational “magician’s trick” with effectively no understanding of language nor the world being present. This inescapable lack of intelligence cannot change within the framework of statistical based deep neural nets, no matter how much the models might get more advanced in resolution, prompting and other techniques in the future model GPT#n. New tools are required to address AI to make it a reasonable concept in the first place.

Regardless, we might over time be compelled to rethink our definitions of intelligence.

The artwork can also be presented interactive, allowing the audience to talk with the machine live by operating the green avatar. Also, a live theater performance with a professional actor hidden in the system playing Socrates is possible.

The work has been first presented at the Aichi Triennale 2022 in Japan.

Diemut Strebe, 2022

concept

The following dialogues are recordings of live conversations of
the artist with an AI text generating machine.

They are inspired by Plato's Theaetetus, experimental concepts and reflections on the human condition.

The artwork can be presented interactive allowing the audience to talk with the machine live by operating the green avatar.

Also, a live theater performance with a professional actor hidden in the system playing Socrates is possible.

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Artist

I am a German-born, US based artist, working with different international institutions, but mostly with MIT faculty. At MIT I have been Artist in Residence from 2017-2019.

My works link art and science to address contemporary issues, often incorporating themes related to philosophy and literature.  I explore the crossover between science and art through media such as living biological materials, nanomaterials, algorithms & numbers, experimental setups and installations. This practice includes scientific concepts, methods and tools, engaging with science directly. The collaborations with scientists take place for example in the fields of human and plant -genetics, quantum- and astrophysics, AI, math and various types of engineering. The heterogeneous appearance of my works, results from the variety of topics and strands in science I deal with.

Focused on the advanced science of our era, I feel compelled to re- affirm the Romantic paradigm of “the new” as well as the role of avant-garde art relating to radical experiments of Classical Modern Art throughout the medium and its combination with the arts.

Collaborators

Steve DiPaola, PhD, Prof: Sch of Interactive Arts & Technology (SIAT);
Past Director: Cognitive Science Program at Simon Fraser University

research site: ivizlab.sfu.ca
art work site: www.dipaola.org/art/

Gaines Semler is a Brooklyn-based actor, writer, and filmmaker. He graduated with a BFA in performing arts from the Savannah College of Art and Design. His specialities include voice acting, classical theatre, and sketch comedy.