This spring the Zabludowicz Collection presents Among the Machines, an exhibition of notable works from the Collection examining how humans interact with machines and non-human entities, alongside new augmented reality artworks created in direct response to the gallery space. As artificial intelligence (AI) develops to envelop and potentially surpass us, this exhibition asks: how will we respond to a stage of evolution beyond the human?
Among the Machines reflects on how close machines really are to exceeding human capabilities, and shines a light on just how mysterious the workings of human intelligence and human consciousness still remain. The exhibition echoes a clear shift of focus in the art world in recent years towards the intersection of art and technology, but roots this noticeable trend in longstanding questions around evolution and human adaptation, explored over the course of several decades by the exhibiting artists.
Taking its title from the prescient late-19thcentury writing of Samuel Butler – in particular the novel Erewhon (1872) in which a civilisation destroys their machines for fear of being controlled by them – Among the Machines will showcase artists engaging with various technologies to critically reflect on our current moment of change. Thirteen international artists from different generations will investigate the impact of technology on our sense of individual and collective identity and our relationship to the planet. From disrupting the biases of data sets, to exploring new types of consciousness and alternative evolutionary branches of the non-human, the artists in this exhibition imagine and materialise new possibilities for co-existence with other lifeforms.
Alongside installations of video, sculpture and interactive computer works, visitors will be able to access a virtual enhancement of the physical exhibition through their smartphones. Augmented reality (AR) technology creates a portal through which audiences can view gravity-defying characters animated in their physical surroundings. Created by Joey Holder, Lauren Moffatt and Theo Triantafyllidis, the new AR artworks respond directly to the unique chapel architecture of the gallery. The works, some new commissions, others being shown for the first time in the UK, are produced in partnership with Daata, an online platform that commissions artists and supports artists in utilising technology to realise ambitious projects in the physical and digital realms. As a commissioning body, sales platform and iPhone App, Daata brings these new AR works to life via the new Daata AR app.
The exhibition will begin with works exploring the intersection of organisms, animals and humans, coined the ‘multi-species alliance’ by theorist Donna Haraway. Artists Joey Holder, Anicka Yi, Marguerite Humeau and Aleksandra Domanović each employ scientific and archival research and sculptural processes ranging from digital design and industrial fabrication to the growing of material from bacterial cultures.
The following galleries will feature artists working directly with AI and machine learning, including video works from Jake Elwes that challenge normative classifications of gender and sexual identity and Ian Cheng’s live simulation videos that explore the nature of mutation and the human ability to relate to changing environments. In Rebecca Allen’s landmark interactive work The Bush Soul #3 (1999), a sophisticated software system called Emergence, developed by the artist, creates a virtual world inhabited by artificial ‘alien’ life.
Highlighting the crucial role of contemporary artists in the debates around new paradigms of culture, economics and politics, a video piece and sculpture by Simon Denny scrutinises the ideology and merits of the blockchain, the technology which underpins cryptocurrencies, NFTs and Web3.
The final room showcases pioneering female artists from different generations and geographies exploring the role of technology in our lives. Lynn Hershman Leeson, Tabita Rezaire and three-person collective Keiken each respond through speculative fiction to the shift of minds and bodies into digital space, questioning what this means for human agency and identity. Their projects also highlight the deep roots of patriarchal and colonial history within the structures of even the most contemporary technologies.
Rather than fearfully destroying the machines, this exhibition will celebrate the potential for creative collaboration with technology, while acknowledging the dangers and unintended consequences present in these new frontiers. Together, the works exhibited in this show will ask timely questions about the speed at which data technology is accelerating, and address issues including power dynamics, surveillance and control that directly impact on all our daily lives as we navigate the spaces we share with the machines we have built.