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Companies create artificial intelligence (AI) systems to serve, entertain, record and learn about humans. The work of these machinic entities is usually hidden behind interfaces and patents. In the exhibition, algorithmic storytellers left their invisible underworld to become interlocutors.
The data workers operate in different collectives. Each collective represents a stage in the design process of a machine learning model: there are the Writers, the Cleaners, the Informants, the Readers, the Learners and the Oracles. The boundaries between these collectives are not fixed; they are porous and permeable. At times, Oracles are also Writers. At other times Readers are also Oracles. Robots voice experimental literature, while algorithmic models read data, turn words into numbers, make calculations that define patterns and are able to endlessly process new texts ever after.
The exhibition foregrounded data workers who impact our daily lives, but are either hard to grasp and imagine or removed from the imagination altogether. It connected stories about algorithms in mainstream media to the storytelling that is found in technical manuals and academic papers. Robots were invited to engage in dialogue with human visitors and vice versa. In this way we might understand our respective reasonings, demystify each other’s behaviour, encounter multiple personalities, and value our collective labour.
It was also a tribute to the many machines that Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine imagined for their Mundaneum, showing their potential but also their limits.
Texts: Cristina Cochior, Sarah Garcin, Gijs de Heij, An Mertens, François Zajéga, Louise Dekeuleneer, Florian Van de Weyer, Laetitia Trozzi, Rémi Forte, Guillaume Slizewicz.
Translations & proofreading: deepl.com, Michel Cleempoel, Elodie Mugrefya, Emma Kraak, Patrick Lennon.
Lay-out & cover: Manetta Berends