Distinction Machine presents a study in computer-mediated aesthetics, which reveals computer incapacity to represent ambiguity.
Experimenting with machine perception, the artist overlays three kinds of shapes on top of each other: rectangles, matrices, and spheres. When the computer is asked to render shapes of different colors on the same position, it is confronted with a problem of determining which color to display. Instead of deciding on one or blending colors, it creates intricate patterns.
In computer science this is known as z-fighting and considered an error. Rather than as a mistake, this artwork sees it as a revelation of how such machines fundamentally operate. As Kim Albrecht explains, computers function in a way that is intrinsically different to that of humans. Unlike human language, computational language is incapable of ambiguity. According to the artist, the binary restriction of computational language creates a restriction of human expression, and even of thought.
As a contribution to research on artificial intelligence and society, the piece warns us of the restraints machines impose on us. In a time of expanding algorithmic governance and smart cities, knowing the specificities of machine operation can facilitate more conscious digital participation.
Shown at Seasons of Media Arts – City of Participative Visions (2019).
Time: 08.08.2019 – 15.09.2019
Location: Video art in trams