12th December 2020 – 22nd January 2021
Larry Achiampong, David Blandy, Stine Deja and Mimi Ọnụọha
Curated by Bob Bicknell-Knight
Networked Visions is an exhibition examining the use of algorithms and machine learning techniques, exploring the embedded bias present within these complex systems that govern our day to day lives and how the use of AI within various industries is changing how we communicate, fall in love and evolve. The works on show consider the politics of pattern recognition, DNA testing and love in the age of AI.
The exhibition takes its name from computer vision, a field of study that seeks to develop techniques to help computers see and understand the content of digital images. In order to understand what is happening within visual content computers use algorithms that are trained using datasets. The largest dataset in use today for developing algorithms is ImageNet, which contains over 20,000 different categories and 14 million images. There are several problems associated with the use of datasets, mainly that the images used are categorised and defined by human beings with an embedded bias, and in turn imprint their human prejudices onto images that are used to train different types of software around the world.
The works included in Networked Visions broadly consider how algorithms give rise to biased forms of artificial intelligence, from reflecting on the politics and problematic history of DNA testing to presenting how ideas of intimacy will evolve and change as automated bodies continue to be developed and improved upon.
Larry Achiampong and David Blandy’s 2019 film, A Terrible Fiction, investigates how invisible histories, such as the relationship between Charles Darwin and his taxidermy teacher John Edmonstone, a freed slave, have helped to inform mainstream western scientific thinking while remaining unrecognised. It is now believed that Edmonstone was pivotal in advancing Darwin’s theory of evolution, inspiring Darwin to visit South America and teaching him taxidermy skills, enabling the preservation of specimens of finches Darwin discovered on his voyage to the Galapagos Islands, which helped him to develop his theory of natural selection. Through A Terrible Fiction, the artists are questioning how these narratives shape our perception of the history of scientific thought and who determines such history. Through the work the artists ask whose voices have been, and are currently being, erased from mainstream narratives.
Stine Deja’s 2018 film, The Intimacy Package, presents a series of lessons composed of five short sequences set in a variety of environments, such as a contemporary flat, a computer server room and an idyllic beach at sunset, in which an electronic narrator guides the viewer through various means of achieving intimacy. Employing romantic clichés from films, borrowing from conversations with Amazon Echo’s Alexa, and sharing lessons from intimacy care workers, the film challenges how intimacy is realised and its inevitable failure when it is mimicked between human and non-human beings.
The final artwork in the exhibition, Us, Aggregated 3.0 by Mimi Ọnụọha, uses Google’s reverse-image search algorithms to hint at questions of power, community, and identity. The work presents an expanded collection of photos from the artist's family's personal collection set alongside images scraped from Google's library that have been algorithmically categorized as similar. Viewed together, the images evoke a sensation of community and similarity that belies the fact that the subjects are randomly assorted, a manufactured aggregation of “us” that remains an "us" nonetheless.
The exhibition takes the form of a volatile spiders web of interconnected visual ephemera, where the artworks on show are presented alongside referential images, videos and gifs. Audience members are invited to sought through the networked rubble, discovering the overt and hidden connections between the presented artworks. However, if you wish to simply view the exhibited artworks, click here. Both exhibition formats are best viewed on desktop.
The exhibition is kindly supported by Arts Council England.
The exhibition is part of a six month program consisting of four online exhibitions, culminating in a physical book and online panel discussion. Each exhibition is connected by the overarching theme of Networks, exposing and exploring the underlying architecture of our daily lives, investigating the social, political, digital and hierarchical networks that we reside within.
The program opened in October 2020, ends in April 2021 and is kindly supported by Arts Council England.
Larry Achiampong's solo and collaborative projects employ imagery, aural and visual archives, live performance and sound to explore ideas surrounding class, cross-cultural and post-digital identity. With works that examine his communal and personal heritage – in particular, the intersection between pop culture and the postcolonial position, Achiampong crate-digs the vaults of history. These investigations examine constructions of ‘the self’ by splicing the audible and visual materials of personal and interpersonal archives, offering multiple perspectives that reveal entrenched socio-political contradictions in contemporary society.
Achiampong has exhibited, performed and presented projects within the UK and abroad including Tate Britain/Modern, London; The Institute For Creative Arts, Cape Town; The British Film Institute, London; David Roberts Art Foundation, London; Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen; Bokoor African Popular Music Archives Foundation, Accra; Logan Center Exhibitions, Chicago; Prospect New Orleans, New Orleans; Diaspora Pavilion – 57th Venice Biennale, Venice; and Somerset House, London.
Achiampong’s recent residencies include Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle; Praksis, Oslo; The British Library/Sound & Music, London; Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge; and Primary, Nottingham. He’s currently artist in residence at Somerset House Studios (London). Achiampong (b. 1984, UK) is a Jarman Award nominated artist (2018). He completed a BA in Mixed Media Fine Art at University of Westminster in 2005 and an MA in Sculpture at The Slade School of Fine Art in 2008. He lives and works in Essex, and has been a tutor on the Photography MA programme at Royal College of Art since 2016. Achiampong currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts) and is represented by C Ø P P E R F I E L D.
David Blandy has established his terrain through a series of investigations into the cultural forces that influence him, ranging from his love of hip hop and soul, to computer games and manga. His works slip between performance and video, reality and construct, using references sampled from the disparate sources that provide his sense of self. His film, Child of the Atom, draws on his family history and is perhaps the most intimate and direct piece of self examination, following directly from earlier works which sought to question how much of a Western sense of identity can be constructed from diverse popular sources.
Recent projects include solo shows at Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea, Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, Germany; Bloomberg Space, London; Crossroads, a solo exhibition at Spike Island, Bristol that toured to Turner Contemporary, Margate, and 176 Project Space, London and a solo show at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead.
Stine Deja’s practice explores the sticky in-between of real and virtual worlds with a striking arsenal of media that includes 3D animation, immersive installation, moving image, and digital surrogates. In Deja’s simulated spaces, uncanny avatars hinge between what’s strange and familiar, seducing us with not quite-real products informed equally by the artist’s simultaneous fascination and revulsion with our hyper-commercialized contemporary culture. Concealed beneath a sleek surface, multiple layers of social critique meld with absurdist aesthetics and tragicomic narratives to create a cybernetic landscape of fantasy and desire. At the heart of all of Deja’s projects is a keen interest in how these heightened emotional states, often coaxed out by late capitalist narratives of self-care and guilt-free indulgence, are displaced onto the body. Stine Deja was born in Denmark in 1986 and currently lives and works in London. She received her MA in Visual Communication (Moving Image) from the Royal College of Art in 2015 and her BA in Interaction Design from Kolding School of Design in 2012.
A select exhibition history of the artist includes shows at: HeK Museum, Basel, Switzerland (2020), Annka Kultys Gallery, London, UK (2020); Perm Museum of Contemporary Art (PERMM, Perm, Russia (2020); Somerset House, London, UK (2020); MdbK, Leipzig, Germany (2019); Tranen, Gentofte, DK (2019); Schimmel Project, Dresden, Germany (2018); Annka Kultys Gallery, London, UK (2018); SixtyEight Art Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark (2018); Annka Kultys Gallery, London, UK (2017); Assembly Point, London, UK (2016); Concrete Lab, Copenhagen; Remisen, Copenhagen; Bargehouse, London; Hockney Gallery, London; Fringe Film Festival, London; Dansk Kvindesamfund, Copenhagen.
Mimi Ọnụọha is a Nigerian-American artist and researcher whose work highlights the social relationships and power dynamics behind data collection. Her multimedia practice uses print, code, installation and video to call attention to the ways in which those in the margins are differently abstracted, represented, and missed by sociotechnical systems. Ọnụọha has been in residence at Eyebeam Center for Art & Technology, Studio XX, Data & Society Research Institute, Columbia University, and the Royal College of Art. Her exhibition and speaking credits include venues like La Gaitê Lyrique (France), FIBER Festival (Netherlands), Mao Jihong Arts Foundation (China), Le Centre Pompidou (France) and B4BEL4B Gallery (San Francisco). Her writing has appeared in Quartz, Nichons-nous Dans L'Internet, FiveThirtyEight, and K. Verlag. In 2014 she was selected to be in the inaugural class of Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellows, and in 2017 she was nominated as a Technical.ly Brooklyn Artist of the Year.
Ọnụọha earned her MPS from NYU Tisch’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. In 2018-19 she served as Creative-in-Residence at Olin College for Engineering. She is a Visiting Arts Professor at NYU Tisch.