August 8–13, 2017
Lightbox Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

A one-week exhibition at the Harvard Art Museums’ Lightbox Gallery asks where artificial intelligence is headed — and how art can help us explore the the world we are making.

by Sarah Newman

The possibilities of artificial intelligence have long seemed futuristic and far-fetched. Movies and video games have imagined such forbidding and spectacular AI futures, which often feature murderous robots, uncanny androids, and super-intelligent operating systems run amok. Already, however, AI technology is making its impact felt in less visible, everyday ways, in such real-world realms as autonomous vehicles, online searches and feeds, and the criminal justice system. In response, artists are charting the ways in which algorithms, neural networks, and autonomous systems are transforming our world right now.

In the spirit of this artistic exploration of ideas and concerns to which AI gives rise, metaLAB (at) Harvard will present MACHINE EXPERIENCE, a showcase of works exploring the emotional effects of algorithms, the uncanny experiences of sensor-enabled computers, and what intelligent machines might reveal about the nature of intelligence itself.

Based at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, metaLAB is comprised of artists, designers, technologists, and scholars dedicated to exploring technology’s roles in the arts and humanities. The works in MACHINE EXPERIENCE reflect the lab’s playful and provocative approach to using art to push research ideas beyond traditional modes of inquiry.

MACHINE EXPERIENCE is also inspired and supported by the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative, a research project at the Berkman Klein Center. In conjunction with MIT’s Media Lab, the Initiative is developing activities, research, and tools to ensure that fast-advancing AI serves the public good.

MACHINE EXPERIENCE will take place from August 8 to 13 in the Harvard Art Museums’ Lightbox Gallery. Each day, the gallery will feature a work by a different artist, encompassing sound, video, and interactive data visualization. There will be four gallery talks, and a launch event on Monday August 7th at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. For more information, visit the metaLAB website, or email Sarah Newman Harvard Art Museums is located at: 32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA; the Lightbox Gallery is on the 5th floor of the museum.

Exhibition schedule:

Nobody’s Listening, by Sarah Newman & Rachel Kalmar
Video installation with sound, 2017
Tuesday, August 8, 10 am-5 pm; Gallery talk 3 pm

Turing’s Mill, by Matthew Battles
Multi-channel video installation, 2017
Wednesday, August 9, 10 am-5 pm; Gallery talk 3 pm

Sherlock, by Jonathan Sun
Interactive chatbot, 2017
Thursday, August 10, 10 am-5 pm

Color Rx, by Maia Leandra
Interactive Installation with color prescriptions, 2017
Friday, August 11, 10–4 pm; Gallery talk 3 pm

AI Senses, by Kim Albrecht
Multi-channel video installation, 2017
Saturday August 12 — Sunday August 13, 10 am-5 pm; Gallery talk Sat Aug 12, 3 pm

, Sarah Newman & Rachel Kalmar

Nobody’s Listening
Sarah Newman & Rachel Kalmar
Video installation with sound, 2017
Tuesday, August 8, 10 am-5 pm
Gallery talk 3 pm

Nobody’s Listening is an multimedia piece that draws on a database of secrets collected through interactive art installations over the past year.The work expresses human secrets through overlapping computer voices and a visual projection. Why do we trust our phones and computers? Where does the physical self end and the digital self begin? The playful installation explores our intimate but dubious relationship to machines, and reflects back our own humanness.
@sarahwnewman @grapealope

, Matthew Battles

Turing’s Mill
Matthew Battles
Multi-channel video installation, 2017
Wednesday, August 9, 10 am-5 pm
Gallery talk 3 pm

Technologies are emerging that prompt a new public dialogue around the nature of cognition, consciousness, and the self. And yet questions underpinning this dialogue have fascinated philosophers throughout history. Is the mind a machine, like a mill or mechanical calculator; or is it spirit or essence, something made of colorless, massless, motionless stuff, transcendent and eternal? Can machines think — and have they been thinking all along? A multi-channel video installation, Turing’s Mill is a kind of dossier of evidence for addressing these questions, gathered from found footage, new imagery, and the history of technology.
Matthew Battles

, Jonathan Sun

Jonathan Sun
Interactive chatbot, 2017
Thursday, August 10, 10 am-5 pm

Chatbots are curious, sometimes helpful, and sometimes mystifying “creatures.” The subject of this installation is a chatbot named Sherlock, touted to be among the most advanced, intelligent AIs on the planet. So why would it want to talk to humans? This interactive installation will invite visitors to chat with Sherlock, a chatbot unlike one they’ve ever met.

, Maia Leandra

Color Rx
Maia Leandra
Interactive Installation with color prescriptions, 2017
Friday, August 11, 10–4 pm
Gallery talk 3 pm

Color is ephemeral and complex. Its history, its substance, and its context link inextricably to our perceptions and experience. Color Rx uses a computer algorithm to diagnose a viewer’s subjective inputs and “prescribe a color” in response. The piece is grounded in questions about trust in or benefit from “smart” systems, often in contexts where the algorithms are opaque — even when the output is very concrete (and in this case, colorful). In what ways is this system smart? Is it also intuitive, or even wise? The installation contends with the meaning we ascribe to perceptions and experiences, especially when such experiences are designed for individual consumption. While many algorithmic forms of diagnosis can be shallow, the benefits can be deep. Drawing on historical information from the Forbes Pigment Collection, citations to scholarly texts, and the artist’s personal store of knowledge and intuition in the field, this piece explores the line between belief and truth, projection and reality, color and illusion.

, Kim Albrecht

AI Senses
Kim Albrecht
Sensors, software, computer, screen, 2017
Saturday, Aug 12-Sunday, Aug 13, 10 am-5 pm
Gallery talk Sat. Aug 12, 3 pm

In current times, “machine learning” and “artificial intelligence” are buzzwords. But they are more than that — they influence our behaviors and understandings of the technologies they describe and the world they make. A lack of understanding of how these systems operate on their own terms is dangerous. How can we live and interact with this alien species, which we set forth into the world, if we know it through interfaces constructed to make the machine feel closer to the world we already know? This project visualizes sensor data that our cell phones and personal computers collect and digest on our behalf, to help us understand how these machines experience the world.



Insights from the Berkman Klein community about how technology affects our lives (Opinions expressed reflect the beliefs of individual authors and not the Berkman Klein Center as an institution.)

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The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University was founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development.