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Biennale Presentation Focuses on Human and Non-human Interactions

In Kochi
March 20, 2019

Perhaps no platform in the contemporary art world is complete without artists pondering over the influence of digital spaces on human beings, including the advent of newer technologies such as artificial intelligence.

A unique video-text installation, which is a collaboration between Ahmedabad-based artist Suvani Suri and Kerala-born Mochu, engages the Kochi-Muziris Biennale viewer with a special effects-based presentation while probing the role of digital spaces in reflecting lives of human beings.

Words like cinematic special effects, machine thinking, algorithms and neural networks find their way into this mixed-media installation on display at Kashi Town House which is one of the ten venues of the fourth edition of the108-day contemporary art festival.

Mochu, 36, an experimental filmmaker, says the work’s focus is oriented to certain specific perceptual (sensory) phenomena that arise at the juncture of human and non-human interactions in both physical and virtual contexts, namely holes and surface effects.

Informed by psychedelic, spiritual and technological themes, Mochu’s videos tend to distort or appropriate imageries from well-known artworks, while abandoning any single visual narrative in his own presentation. The biennale work puts to use a good number of animated geometrical forms, shapes, dark spaces and holes, which serve the purpose of discussing gaps in sensory perception.

Through the work, the artist has sought to link these different forms with the evolution of technology. “We are investigating how the study of discontinuous surfaces, gaps, tunnels and hollows may inform us about gaps in sensory perception. Such gaps are important in the context of machine learning and algorithmic image recognition or even special effects in cinema,” adds Mochu, who studied film and video communication from the National Institute of Design.

Mochu’s fellow artist Suri, who is also a graduate of NID in Ahmedabad, is interested in the medium of sound and the auditory aspect in different forms. The video-text installation, setup inside a dark room, is also accompanied by a soundtrack, which comprises of an abstract audio work.

The audio modules, which can be heard via a pair of headphones, expand upon the sensory gaps highlighted in the video-text work. In order to illustrate this, the audio work draws upon ‘auditory illusions’ from cartoon sounds and sonic interactions.

In the end, the project appears to be an effort to point to the limits to which humans will be able to accommodate the current flood of data space in their lives. Will machine intelligence continue to serve their human makers or the power structure could turn upside down? Mochu, however, brushes asides any fears of newer technologies overtaking humans.

“Fear of intelligent machines ‘taking over’ is a version of what is known as AI Singularity popularised by mainstream media,” says the artist. “As widespread as this may be, our work has no interest in such doomsday prophecies.”