"Hive Mind is an exhibition realised through a conversation in images between Laura Duffy and Maddy Plimmer, facilitated by Sean Burn.
Softly droning TV screens emit rotating, highly textural surfaces of organic forms. Familiar yet indecipherable, like a language one once spoke but no longer comprehends. The indeterminate surfaces tease the viewer’s mind—they seem to develop into clearer realisation, only to disintegrate into pixellated nothingness. On the floor lie two complementary images constructed by artificial intelligence from what they ‘know’ of our visual reality. Although these initially appear to be low resolution nature photographs, the blurred contours and general lack of sharpness are in fact a result of the bot’s limited familiarity with the details of a natural landscape or cosmic formation.
Employed here to interpret the central videos, CaptionBot.ai is a system that employs deep learning to intelligently decode images with a near-human level of accuracy. Created by Microsoft Cognitive Services, it identifies images fed to it based on the stores of visual information it has been fed previously. It then captions your image in a way that mimics human speech. Microsoft calls these increasingly humanised responses to data ‘natural methods of communication’ in their product advertisement. ‘I’m not confident but it looks like a body of water’ is one of the captions projected via a third TV screen and a neon blue holographic fan protruding from one of the white walls. The first person pronoun leads the viewer to assume that a person is making the aforementioned judgement call. Creepy. Though not as creepy as it would be if the hologram weren’t accommodated by a small box and usb that inevitably expose the ghostly lettering’s source. This is not to say that the artist failed in their intent to produce a desired effect; rather, the physical presence of technological objects like wiring, as well as the malfunctioning of one of the exhibition’s digital interfaces, reflects the current weight of technological impediments in our daily experience. Instead of a Black Mirror-esque vision of the future, in which intelligent systems are implanted in eyes and taken for granted (to perilous effect), Hive Mind’s surreal visuals are ultimately grounded in today’s technological realities.
The logic that connects the central video works with a group of flame-less, flickering LED lamps cast into butt-plug silhouettes isn't immediately apparent. ‘In a time of endless imagery, what tools can we use to communicate outside of words? What is understood and what is missed?’ asks the exhibition text. The disjunction between the works is surely a natural result of the artists' wordless conversation, and makes for entertaining viewing regardless.
After about five minutes with the screens I managed to tentatively identify oysters and mould of a face caked in cracking layers of a clay-like substance. Impossibly clear honey being drizzled, and perhaps a microscopic cross-section of blood cells. How long did it take the CaptionBot.ai to recognise forms within these visuals compared to my distracted human brain? What is the comparative accuracy of image recognition between a human and machine brain? Sometimes the professed hyper-efficiency of artificial intelligence systems fails to translate when employed in mundane, everyday tasks. They also make mistakes. The incorporation of bots in HiveMind gives us a sense of the futuristic direction that technology is moving in, but also an idea of the stage we’re in at the moment—one that carries the promise of a more efficient future, but a promise that may be overstated by its creators."
- Nina Dyer, Salient
THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH.
And the word was god.
We now have access to a mass net of information with ports in our home, workplace and pockets at any given moment.
This is a public platform where visual and written material is constantly distributed and redistributed via the various social intranets that make up this dense tangled web of information.
Intertextuality becomes a sub-language to the dominant text based communication. Connotations are social currency. A corporation pays a ‘millennial’ for a new buzzword.
References are a byproduct of the linguistic basis for consciousness, a pattern-seeking mentality that can’t help but constantly adapt and expand all modes of collective understanding.
This is the hive mind. A behavioural universality, that is mimicked in the extended online platform.
The words are just the after-effect of this process of becoming conscious. This is the collective consciousness. What enables me to send information from me to you.
We are the gods of our own universe.