Chronus Art Center presents "AI Delivered: The Abject" in Shanghai



Chronus Art Center announces the presentation of AI Delivered: The Abject, the first segment of a two-part exhibition under the framework of AI Delivered. Featuring artists and artist collectives Sofian Audry and Istvan Kantor (a.k.a. Monty Cantsin), HE Zike, Lauren Lee McCarthy, Casey Reas and Jan St. Werner, Devin Ronneberg and Kite, and Tonoptik, the exhibition is on view from July 3 through October 17, 2021.

When answering the question “Can Machines Think?” the British mathematician and AI progenitor Alan Turing in his 1950 essay “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” proposed his infamous ImitationGame (aka The Turing Test) as a counterargument to his own self-imposed question, writing “The original question, ‘Can machines think?’ I believe to be too meaningless to deserve discussion.” Turing said instead “that in about fifty years' time it will be possible, to program computers, with a storage capacity of about 109, to make them play the imitation game so well that an average interrogator will not have more than 70 per cent chance of making the right identification after five minutes of questioning.”(1)American philosopher Daniel Dennett later speculated in his text Can Machines Think, contending “Turing was not coming to the view (although it is easy to think how one might think he is) that to think is just like to think like a human being … Men and women, and computers, may all have different ways of thinking. But surely, he thought, if one can think in one’s own peculiar style well enough to imitate a thinking man or woman, one can think well, indeed.”(2)

Casey Reas & Jan St.Werner, Compressed Cinema -- Untitled 5 (Not now. No, no.), 2020 ©bitform gallery, New York.pngCasey Reas & Jan St.Werner, Compressed Cinema -Untitled 5 (Not now. No, no.), 2020 ©bitform gallery, New YorkDevin Ronneberg & Kite, Fever Dream, 2021, interactive video ©artists.pngDevin Ronneberg & Kite, Fever Dream, 2021, interactive video ©artists

The exhibition attempts to implicitly raise questions on the epistemological limits of Artificial Intelligence while alluding to a recurring sense of frenzy and abjection in today’s AI-entrenched world.

Summarizing art since the 1970s as an outcry for The Return of the Real, the art historian Hal Foster famously stated, the real would be the actual bodies and social sites recognized in the form of the traumatic and abject subject. He commented, “The shift in conception — from reality as an effect of representation to the real as a thing of trauma — may be definitive in contemporary art.”(3)If contemporary art is ineluctably a part of contemporary experience encroached by the pervasive presence of Artificial Intelligence, the new locality of abjection may lie precisely where the AI’s imposed instrumentality reigns and dominates, perpetuated by capital’s greed, and held in sway by geopolitical powers. But the site of abjection is also a site of resistance and creativity. The burden on AI of the excessive human desire to make it human-like is a misery awaiting to be set free – this doppelgänger narrative constitutes the curatorial framework of the first part of the exhibition.

Lauren Lee McCarthy, LAUREN, 2017, installation view ©artist, Frankfurter Kunstverein.pngLauren Lee McCarthy, LAUREN, 2017, installation view ©artist, Frankfurter KunstvereinHE Zike, E-dream, 2018 ©artist.pngHE Zike, E-dream, 2018 ©artist

Works in the exhibition reveal the vulnerability of neural networks as well as AI’s despair in attempting to grasp reality’s intricacy and tumultuousness. While romantic chats played out by the machine learning algorithm seems ludicrous, human wits turn artificial artful and intelligence performed absurd. We see images reminiscent of a Baroque beauty, both concretely abstract and abjectly sublime. Incapacitating the garish wiggles of the Deep Dream-induced hallucinatory visuality and, at the same time, we make life or cause death of the neural network by plugging and unplugging network cables to artificially deconstruct and reconstruct. A technological substrate of wired life is witnessed as being delivered, stripped, and resurrected in the most visceral sense.

Sofian Audry & Istvan Kantor (a.k.a. Monty Cantsin).pngSofian Audry & Istvan Kantor (a.k.a. Monty Cantsin), The Sense of Neoism?!, interactive installation at Eastern Bloc (Montreal, Canada). Photo: Anna Iarovaia ©artistsTONOPTIK, Instinkt, 2021, installation view ©artists.pngTONOPTIK, Instinkt, 2021, installation view ©artists

With the alternative narrative of the Turing Test and its implication in perspective, the second iteration of AI Delivered which is slated to open in early November 2021 imagines an AI freed from the assumed intelligence by a human measure as well as seeing machine intelligence as an agentic entity of another order, capable of a subjectivity other than that of humans. The exhibition therefore illuminates how such an AI is envisioned by artists to explore a cosmopolitically conscious ecology and the posthuman prospects of symbiosis and of collective commons.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an extended essay, invoking historical and current literatures on the critical reflections of AI, to expound on the curatorial conception and the included artworks.

1., 5/3/2021

2., 5/3/2021

3.Hal Foster, The Return of the Real (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1996), p. 146.

About the exhibition

Dates: July 3 – October 17, 2021

Venue: Chronus Art Center (CAC)

Address: BLDG.18, No.50 Moganshan RD., Shanghai

Artists: Sofian Audry and Istvan Kantor (a.k.a. Monty Cantsin), HE Zike, Lauren Lee McCarthy, Casey Reas and Jan St. Werner, Devin Ronneberg and Kite, Tonoptik

Curated by: ZHANG Ga

Courtesy of the artists and Chronus Art Center.