Artificial Intelligence vs. Artificial Obsession

It’s Social Media Week and so I decided to attend some events in Glasgow in the hope that they may make for some interesting blog posts.

The first event I attended was a talk by Edinburgh based band and art collective FOUND, entitled ‘Music, Machines and being a Human in our Online Future’. The band have been working with Professor of Language Evolution Simon Kirby for the past few years on a range of weird and wonderful projects. These highly interactive projects fuse art exhibitions and music installations, with the use and effects of social media often playing a crucial role.

The first two projects, ‘Etiquette’ and ‘Three Pieces’, were installations that relied on physical human interaction but their third and most famous project ‘Cybraphon’ (“an autonomous, emotional robot band”) was the first to rely not just on physical human presence but online interaction. Now don’t lie, we have all googled ourselves at one point but a musical machine that is obsessed with its own online presence? That’s something else. ‘Cybraphon’ is basically an old Victorian cabinet filled with junkyard instruments which constantly play music to suit the machine’s current mood determined by how much online attention it is receiving. The project grew famous worldwide, making an appearance on US television and even going on to win a BAFTA.

Soon after the success of producing a playable chocolate vinyl record (will these guys stop at nothing?) the band took on their next project ‘End of Forgetting’ in 2011. After ‘Cybraphon’ was dubbed steampunk, much to the band’s dismay, they decided to create something much more clean and sinister. ‘End of Forgetting’ is a recording machine which records everything in its surroundings, storing it forever, playing with the idea that humans are so used to oversharing, we often forget that whilst our human face-to-face interactions begin and end, our online interaction and communication is stored forever. The Internet never forgets and neither does this machine.

Most recently, FOUND have launched #UNRAVEL – possibly their most ambitious project so far. It takes elements of previous projects and is essentially a music installation which involves several instruments playing together as famous Scottish artist and musician Aidan Moffat gives different accounts of different personal stories depending on a vast variety of factors: the time, the weather, how many people are present at the installation and the positive and negative attention it receives online.

#UNRAVEL Live - Wed 15 August 2012 -0060-2

Credit: The Queen’s Hall

During the talk, Ziggy Campbell, Tommy Perman and Professor Kirby take us through each project, from conception to execution and everything in between. Short clips showing the creation and building of each project were a great addition to the talk as they showed the trial and error process to be just as interesting and fun as the finished product itself.

As you can see, beyond the creation of each project, there’s a good strong emphasis on the way in which these magnificent machines engaged and even thrived on social media interaction, mimicking Professor Kirby’s thoughts on the changes in human nature and how the use of social media may even be starting to affect our psychology.

It’s hard to say at this point where FOUND as an art collective may go next but, whatever they have in mind, it’s sure to be incredibly interesting and thought provoking.

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