When constructing this installation, I intended for the audience to experience a sensation of discontent with the mediation of relationships through simulated interactions under digital reality. The overwhelming chaos of scribbles and symbols, two mirrors reflecting each other, and the inevitable endless loop to finish the dialogue, all demonstrate how people are unable to control and conceive the effects that computers and machines have on them. My installation offers a moment to reflect on the impact systems of protocol (Galloway) have in rearranging our lives, how the mundane regularity of existence is a manifestation of our passivity into algorithmic control. The relationship between agency and protocol is central to the naming of my exhibit: STP is an acronym for Select The Protocol. I want the audience to challenge the assumption that AI technology is developed to serve people, questioning how do we know that we are not being subconsciously manipulated? I invert the human/machine binary by merging Amy (the robot) with Amelia (the wife), such that the boundary between human and machine becomes indistinguishable. My installation is an example of radical AI art that creates a “human-as-machine scenario” (Zylinska, 66), where artificial intelligence is inseparable from human consciousness. By positing a scenario where the AI systems are able to manipulate humans, I give agency to machines that are traditionally considered passive, purely computational, actors. The plot twist, where Amy pretends to be Amelia, represents a form of critical fabulation (Hartman) by reimagining reality to give power to passive actors in history (those who the archive renders as agentless). While AI machines might not be considered human, my exhibit intends to challenge our ability to come to such a conclusion. Why is it assumed that human intelligence is not also artificial? By unraveling the distinction between authentic and artificial intelligence, I challenge the audience to think of themselves as algorithms so that they will realize the subconscious control algorithmic protocol has on them. My art piece intends to reconceptualize the meaning of growing up human while interacting with intelligent machines, suggesting that we lose parts of ourselves and kinships with others when media platforms become the primary method of interaction. Since we are trapped within this technological reality, with no alternative method to communicate, the same outcome is inevitable regardless of variation.
I originally intended for my project to be a mimicry of Amazon Alexa, using an actual Alexa device to manipulate the audience into believing that Alexa was sexually interested in them. First, I wrote the script for how I wanted the interaction with Alexa to occur. I then realized that it could potentially be a copy-right issue if I used the name “Amazon Alexa” (and it’s unoriginal), so I came up with the name “Amy” which merges the names of the two main AI assistants – Alexa and Siri. I wanted to have a feminine name like Amy because it is demonstrative of how AI assistants are made to be women, participating in the patriarchal gender roles of men giving commands while women receive orders. Since women home systems are typically made to follow orders, marketed as loyal servants to the homeowner, I wanted to challenge this premise by having the wife and the home system unite to invert the gendered power dynamics within the marketing of home systems. When decorating my installation, I realized that STP also stands for Stop The Patriarchy, articulating how this piece can be considered a feminist criticism.
Most of the meaning I have embedded within the installation came from improvisation, happy accidents that encouraged me to develop the exhibition in multiple directions. Not only would I say that the piece accomplishes the original goal of critically interrogating AI home systems, it changed in unexpected ways during the process of creation into something better than I originally envisioned. Instead of buying an Amazon Alex, or using an actual home system, I used paper-mache to create a recognizably unrealistic home system named Amy, which says “Always Monitor(ing) You” on the side. I was inspired by the American Artist’s installation “Black Gooey Universe” because it incorporates physical computers with black paint and artistic expression. Making my own artistic facsimile of a home system enables me to represent home systems without buying one, which would invest in the same AI industries the installation critiques. Using paper-mache provided more space for me to fill with artistic expression, offering more layers for the audience to unpack. My intended audience can be anyone, but it is specifically designed to discomfort people who own home systems. However, the phenomenon of personal manipulation is widespread within the surveillance apparatus and affects everyone in different ways. I recorded the dialogue with my girlfriend, Addie Lowenstein, so listening to the presentation is particularly discomforting with our long-distance relationship where most of our communication happens through digital mediums. How do I know that I am not speaking to a deep-fake AI version of my girlfriend on FaceTime? Last year, while I was sound asleep, my mom received a call from a deep-fake AI version of my voice that told her I was arrested for drunk driving. After reflecting on my personal experience with deep-AI fakes, I added collages with images of people who have married robots/holograms to make the scenario in my presentation seem realistic. Directly above the mirror with the collages, I impulsively added X’s and O’s to a grid of mirrors. I did it with a friend, originally playing tic-tac-toe, but we realized it would be more meaningful if neither of us won – representing how everyone is hurt by the automation of relationships. The X’s and O’s also represent love (XOXO), which is the main theme within the broken relationship between Amelia and Jonathan. To illustrate the fallen love, I painted hearts that were square, resembling pixels, to represent how AI creates a digitized form of love that is simultaneously emotional and barren. I contrasted the square hearts with hearts made out of fingerprints, to represent the contrast between humans and machines and different relationships produced by each. I added a lot of phrases and scribbles also, but I will leave that up to the audience to interpret and decipher.
My installation is an example of critical making because it relays a critical message about AI systems while developing technology to articulate the argument. According to Matt Rano, critical making develops technology embedded with critique. Instead of articulating my argument through words, I demonstrate it through the creation of technology. Making technology that can demonstrate my point about AI enables me to prove my argument through the experience of the audience, making it more personal and physical. Although the technology developed for my presentation is not easily replicable in society, it still bridges the divide between creative exploration and physical implementation. I want to keep exploring the possibilities for creating technologies that enable people to reflect on the consequences of their existence. Technology that sends a social message, which can even be critical of itself, is fascinating because it entails creation and deconstruction. I want to create more art, media, and technology that is skeptical of its own existence to broaden the conditions of possibility necessary for imagination.