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Human Nature

Elevate Arts Residency

19

A digital AV installation created as Artist in Residence for Elevate Festival, in response to the open call theme Truth. Exhibited in the caves of Schlossberg, underground passage adjacent to live music venues.

Elevate is an annual interdisciplinary festival held in various central venues around Graz, Austria. With its unique combination of critical political discourse and contemporary music and art, guests include human rights experts, climate researchers and activists from all over the world.

Vocal sound design by Androula Kafa.

Feature
Excerpt

How might a supposedly rational mind calculate the essence of human existence, and represent this as an expression, a creative artefact?

Reflecting on the subjectivity of truth and value through the objective gaze of a networked Artifical Intelligence – drawing a parallel between the hidden aspects of our personal and global natures – humanity’s shadow reveals a chaotic and fluid state of being.


Taking form as a digital sculpture, the work aims to highlight invisible aspects of our interconnected Anthropocene – questioning the role of the artefact as evidence, and to what end distortion is a defining characteristic of historical narratives.

A post-mortem of Human decadence; combined with a haunting choral requiem, the installation creates a ceremonial experience.

‘Human Nature’ refers to both our sociological, psychological characteristics, and the manufactured landscape of the Anthropocene. I’m intrigued by the parallels between these micro and macro dimensions – the individual, collective, planetary and universal consciousness.

Investigating plasticity, the fallibility of representation as well as the value of error, and the space this opens for autonomous creativity. 


Obsessed by the solid, mouldable, material – flowing, mutable and immaterial natures of existence are often overlooked. The unconscious, shadow side of our psyche correlates with the invisible shadow of our planet, the sea. In a polarity these are considered attributes of the feminine, suppressed force of the divine.

“The Goddess has long been associated with nature, the endless processes of birth, death, and rebirth, with the instinctual, feeling life of the body, as well as an inherent wisdom and pristine intelligence expressed through the needs and impulses which drive us. Through centuries of patriarchal rule, this natural life and wisdom have been denied, but in our attempts to deny and control, the outrage of the repressed feminine is experienced as chaos, the dark hell-womb of the unconscious.”

Linda Hartley

An objective perspective uncovers aspects of our perception of ‘reality’ that are otherwise obscured from view. For example, the cargo shipping industry is a monumental but invisible component of the global economy. Carrying 90% of world trading, its magnitude is unfathomable, as are the environmental impacts.

Our civilisations owe a significant gratitude to the oceans, in the development and maintenance of global trade operations. An incredible fragile balance of the ecosystem which makes life possible and habitable is maintained in proportion; 71% of the Earth’s surface is ocean, containing 97% of all water.

Interview with curator Berit Gilma for Elevate 2019 magazine Truth.


How do you relate to this year’s festival theme Truth? How does this relation manifest in your work?

When I think about truth, it’s a concept that seems entirely relative and fluid. Our experience of the world is based on the senses, memory and imagination; all of which are fragile and corruptible to illusion. How this manifests in my work is often an exploration and deconstruction of perception, through the surreal and uncanny, in the context of altered states of consciousness or parallel realities.

I’m captivated by imperceptible, invisible forces. What exists in absence, chaos and shadow; if we speak in terms of a duality these are considered qualities of the divine feminine. The womb is a generating void, a paradox of creation – this limbo state of uncertainty, which is simultaneously embracing and threatening, is a recurring motif in my work. 

How do you think art can render the truth comprehensible/visible?

I definitely think art should provoke, in the search for truths – there is the capacity to illuminate issues or injustice that are otherwise obscured and difficult to connect with. Art can open a window but also a mirror for reflection. Crucially it leaves space to discover something for yourself; demonstrating the existence of subjectivity, yet also a persistent commonality.

Accordingly, art is a very powerful tool to connect with our collective unconscious, which I think is a representation of a shared unity that could be called truth. Audio-visual and immersive environments have the potential to mediate a space for transcendence, where it can be easy for people to disconnect from the familiar, into an individual or collective spiritual experience. 

In your work for the Elevate Residency, your narrative is that a future AI looks back at humanity in the Anthropocene – it’s a dystopian scenario due to human failure. Can you elaborate on what the AI sees and what’s the human failure?

I imagine the distinction between an AI and human intelligence to be rationality and materiality. AI sees the failure of humanity in its contradictions, and illogical self-sabotaging deceptions. The decadence of patriarchal society originating from an ignorant obsession with materialism, causing mass destruction by viewing itself as separate from the ecosystem, as a god. Narcissism is both a psychological and cultural condition.

Even though AI is observant of human failure, I like to think there is a romantic view of its differences. If human nature is defined by irrationality and mutability, it is both a curse and a gift, because it’s also the origin of love, passion and splendour. Thus, the AI artist attempts to follow in a romantic tradition of art, which positions human frailty in the context of the sublime, omnipotent nature. 

You mentioned you’re exploring altered states of consciousness and parallel realities. In your opinion, how can this exploration have an impact on our human nature, our reality, the planet, the future?

Mythology and symbols have always helped us explain human nature. It might seem paradoxical but exploring what lies beyond our perception of reality helps understand our place in the world. By realising truth is relative based on your perspective, and that transformation is possible, we can have more empathy and tolerance with others as well as respect for the ecosystem.

Accessing the unconscious through therapeutic technique is where personal development arises. The growth of individual consciousness determines the evolution of collective consciousness. Once the individual in conflict is healed, society in conflict can be healed – in other words personal change will lead to social change.