Visual: Luis Kürschner, with kind support from Studio Linné

A Programme on Artificial Intelligence

Taking place both online and offline, the Gropius Bau’s first programme on artificial intelligence (AI) focuses on AI’s utopian and poetic possibilities. From June 2023, the first part of the programme, Ether’s Bloom, kicks off a sequence of new projects including a Writer in Residence, artistic explorations, a podcast, lectures and conversations. The development of an app with a special focus on education and accessibility forms the programme’s second part.

The Programme Ether’s Bloom

Ether’s Bloom is inspired by new Writer in Residence K Allado-McDowell. Current AI models tend to hallucinate and give answers rather than formulate questions, despite the centrality of questioning and speculation to creative work and discourse. Ether’s Bloom focuses on a programme of artistic investigation and speculation on artificial intelligence in close collaboration with artists, writers and scientists. 

Encouraging the aspects of learning and knowledge sharing, the AI podcast Beyond and Within: AI Talks takes listeners through a journey of questions, analysis and knowledge exploring the many sides to these growing technologies including closer looks at feelings, art, institutional spaces, the future of humans and embodiment. These initiatives will open up discussions about artificial intelligence, its ethics and practices, while adopting an intergenerational and intersectional viewpoint. The programme also includes various online formats, such as a residency format (Writer in Residence: K Allado-McDowell) and the podcast Beyond and Within: AI Talks.

Development of an AI-based app

The second part of the programme consists of the development of an app that is partly AI-assisted to provide structural support and make visiting the Gropius Bau more accessible. The app, partly emerging from the various activities in Ether’s Bloom, emphasises on accessibility and different kinds of intelligences and is conceived as an important complement to the Gropius Bau’s existing educational programme. Supporting serviceability and shared learning for users and visitors, it also provides infrastructure for AI-based educational formats in a way that is sustainable and can be used in the future.

Artist in Residence

Writer in Residence

K Allado-McDowell

Portrait, K Allado-McDowell

Portrait, K Allado-McDowell

photo: Ian Byers-Gamber

K Allado-McDowell – who is considered an innovator in the collaborative use of AI and machine learning for co-creative and literary work – is the Gropius Bau’s first Writer in Residence. As an integral part of Ether’s Bloom, the residency provides a digital space to investigate and publish writings on Artificial Intelligence in the scope of a three-month collaboration with the Gropius Bau Journal.

During their residency, Allado-McDowell will focus on writings that challenge, re-consider, subvert, collaborate and mingle with learning algorithms. Circling around questions of how technology can enable interspecies futures, Allado-McDowell’s contributions to the Gropius Bau Journal will also focus on making the complex dimensions of Artificial Intelligence accessible to a broader audience. 

Artistic Positions

Ether’s Bloom: A Programme on Artificial Intelligence, Elisa Giardina Papa, installation view, Gropius Bau (2023)

photo: Luca Girardini

Elisa Giardina Papa

Shown for the first time together in the context of Ether’s Bloom, Elisa Giardina Papas trilogy of video works surveys the ways in which Al and digital economies are reframing the politics of labour and the practice of care.‎

Technologies of Care

By collecting stories of freelancers who provide care labour online, the video instal­lation Technologies of Care (2016) investigates the complex relationship between labour, gender and the ethical challenges often faced by online workers. Using anonymising digital imagery, the video provides a glimpse into the lives of the workers who sustain the informal economy of on-demand care.

Cleaning Emotional Data

Cleaning Emotional Data (2020) furthers this research by focusing on emergent forms of Al micro-labor. For this video installation, Giardina Papa worked remotely for several companies “cleaning” data which were later used to train emotion­ recognition algorithms. Among the tasks she performed were the categorization of human emotions, the labelling of facial expressions and the recording of her own image to animate three-dimensional avatars. The video installation documents her labour while simultaneously questioning the biases ingrained in both historical and present-day technologies deployed in the categorisation of human expressions.

Mimi Ọnụọha

Mimi Ọnụọha’s art frames technology as a site that embodies cultural logics of knowledge and difference, as shaped by historical and colonial encounters. Her work points to the contradictions inherent in the premise of technological “progress” and illuminates a path for a more expansive understanding of technology that embraces the traditions and values of those whose histories have been erased in the name of development.

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These Networks in Our Skin

These Networks in Our Skin (2021) is a short film showing people reclaiming their own traditional narratives using the cables and devices of the internet. Driven by evocative imagery and sounds, the film is inspired by lgbo cosmology. In some lgbo traditions, Ala, the goddess of the land and everything below it, intervenes in human activities, and is supplicated by works of art and gifts. The women in Ọnụọha’s film loosely adapt lgbo and other cosmologies to the digital infrastructure that surrounds us. By rewiring and reweaving the material realities of the Internet to re­ flect their own presences, they reconfigure it to embrace their own cultural beliefs and values.

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The Cloth in the Cable

In the installation The Cloth in the Cable (2022), Ọnụọha embeds cables with spices, cloth, dust, yellow madras curry pepper, smoked paprika, ground calabash nutmeg and other materials, rewired with new meanings and ontologies. The work extends the Internet’s history and symbolises its presence and power over spaces and stories. For the Berlin version of this installation, Ọnụọha invited Berlin-based writer, poet and community organiser hn. lyonga - the Gropius Bau’s Neighbour in Residence 2023 – to embellish the work with a local and site –specific addition of broom fibers.

Ọnụọha focuses on the absences created by computational and data infrastructure - on what is left out rather than typically seen. Yet, her work corrects what she has called “algorithmic violence” - or the exclusive and repressive tendencies within technology - by creating new spaces of care, inclusion and connectivity.

Ether’s Bloom: A Programme on Artificial Intelligence, Mimi Ọnụọha, installation view, Gropius Bau (2023)

photo: Luca Girardini

Ether’s Bloom: A Programme on Artificial Intelligence, kennedy+swan, installation view, Gropius Bau (2023))

photo: Luca Girardini

kennedy+swan

In their artistic work, kennedy+swan propose a vision of the world in which human dominance is abandoned in favour of a harmonious coexistence with plants and animals, trusting their intelligence as much as we trust our own. In their videos, augmented and virtual reality experiences and 3D scans of handmade models, the artist duo illuminates the benefits of interspecies connections and reveals the constructive power of future AI systems.
 
The new commissioned work Mixed Signals (2023) delves into the intriguing relationship between Artificial Intelligence, non-human communication systems and our human perceptions of them. While AI is often seen as a symbol of our alienation from nature, this series of watercolours and AR works reveal unexpected ways to think about different forms of intelligence in flora and fauna and how to engage with them.
 
From robotic bees infiltrating real hives to the use of AI to identify biodiversity in forests, the series culminates with a meditating cow reaching enlightenment, challenging dominant views on animal cognition. kennedy+swan portray nature as a self-propagating neural system – albeit one that may exist partly beyond the access of human perception.

Each watercolour can be scanned using a mobile app, revealing an augmented reality scene, expanding the narrative of the paintings. As well as an engaging and playful visualisation of non-human intelligence, the project is partly the result of AI itself, as ChatGPT acted as a sparring partner in the coding of the Mixed Signals app.

Patricia Domínguez

Patricia Domínguez’s works explore ecological myth-making, multispecies relationships and digitisation of life under corporatied, late capitalism. Through sculpture, video, publications and educational projects inspired by her research on ethnobotany and healing practices, Domínguez views art as a tool for decolonial emancipation to transcend and resist today’s neoliberal condition.

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Holographic Milk

The works explore various dimensions of spiritual and non-human intelligences. Derived from research from residency at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, and from exchange and learning with Chilean healers, the video Holographic Milk (2021) takes viewers on an inner discovery through spirituality, ecological prophecies and quantum physics. Structured as a meditative prayer and supplication, the video engages with organic matter as its own information system.

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Madre Drone

Madre Drone (2019-2020) originates from the artist's first-hand accounts of experiences in the region of Chiquitania in Bolivia: the rise of Amazon fires and the protests that took place a month later in adjacent Chile left behind devastated habitats and animals, while protesters were made blind through police violence. The work serves as an invocation of a new way of being that merges technology and planetary memory. Depicting a realm of plants and natural beings involving a woman­serpent, a blind toucan, psychedelic cacti and anti-drone laser lights, Madre Drone ultimately summons us to witness a shamanistic experience amid visionary, interwoven worlds. It is an invitation to think about our relationship with machines and plants and what we can learn with regard to Artificial Intelligence.

Ether’s Bloom: A Programme on Artificial Intelligence, Patricia Domínguez, installation view, Gropius Bau (2023)

photo: Luca Girardini

Ether’s Bloom is accompanied by the thinking and contemplation of cultural scientist, researcher and writer Maya Indira Ganesh, who is present throughout the year with new content and publications in various forms.

To the imprint

Media partners: BerlinArt Link, CeeCee, MonopolStudioLinné
The Gropius Bau and the programme Artificial Intelligence are funded by the Minister for Culture and the Media.