Challenging the common narratives about artificial empathy and the robotic imaginary, the latest call for the Web Residencies by Solitude & ZKM invited projects that address care’s economization and instrumentalization, or shed light on forms of radical, collective, and critical care.
Juror's Statement by Daphne Dragona — Nov 10, 2019
Under the title of »Engineering Care«, the call for Web Residencies No. 8 looked into automated care’s possibilities and limitations, gains and losses. Curator Daphne Dragona invited artists, designers, technologists, and activists to submit proposals for new or ongoing works that capture how we will live and work with machines, and how relationships and dependencies might change. Challenging the common narratives about artificial empathy and the robotic imaginary, it welcomes projects that address care’s economization and instrumentalization, or shed light on forms of radical, collective, and critical care.
»Engineering Care« aimed to address the role of contemporary technologies in the generalized crisis of care experienced in the world today. Keeping in mind the emergence of services and products that manifest the instrumentalization and economization of care, the call was an open invitation to reflect upon how the politics and ethics of care change, and to underline the need for substantial and radical responses. A central question was: Which tools and infrastructures can assist in building, maintaining, and repairing relationships and bonds that fell apart in the period of financial capitalism?
The numerous submitted proposals involved concepts, initiatives and prototypes that discussed how technologies can be designed or appropriated in order to overcome existing binaries, divisions or constructions, acknowledging the needs of different worlds. Within this context, the four selected projects discuss the problematics of the emerging technologies of care in relation to different fields, and introduce speculative or viable alternatives. They inform, raise awareness, or address a call for collective action, and remind us of the urge to build, hack or modify systems and machinic assemblages.
»On the Apparently Meaningless Texture of Noise«
Pedro Oliveira will focus on the automated systems which are being used under the guise of humanitarian care and in reality support acts of dehumanization. Following his previous work on the utilization of accent recognition software in asylum procedures, »On the Apparently Meaningless Texture of Noise«is a proposal to intervene, appropriate and repurpose the training datasets of such systems. Taking advantage of the gaps found in the systems, a new textural exploration becomes possible, offered as a technology of care and act of resistance.
»Care Bot for the Un-Caring Social Media Landscape«
Caroline Sinders is planning a »Care Bot for the Un-Caring Social Media Landscape«. As somebody who has worked a lot on the topic of online harassment, she wishes to design a care bot that can assist victims but also inform other users. The bot will be built to discuss practices, guides, and suggestions. Shedding light on behaviours and situations, it will provide valuable resources and expose the lack of care and support by today’s popular platforms.
»Molecular Sex & Synthetic Love«
Johanna Bruckner, Molecular Sex, production still, HD Video, 2019
With her project »Molecular Sex & Synthetic Love«, Johanna Bruckner will refer to the desires and the sex/care regimes that the contemporary economy shapes. In accordance with an artistic practice that focuses on practices of refusal and resistance, she will look into how the heterormative technology-led world – with its sex and care robots – can be liberated and opposed. Bruckner will develop sound files for robots to be listened to, used, and shared, exiting the standards and norms that the system encourages.
»As Air Became This Number«
Hanna Husberg and Agata Marzecova will examine the politics and problematic aspects of atmospheric care. »As Air Became This Number« will discuss how the datafication of urban air and the exposure of pollution data is now being introduced as a form of care by governments or municipalities. They will underscore how responsibility in such cases shifts hands from the state to the citizens, and reinforces one more neoliberal form of self-care undermining reflection and collective action.
Text: Daphne Dragona Main image: Software Garden, 2018, Rory Pilgrim, Courtesy of andriesse eyck galerie
Daphne Dragona is a curator and writer based in Berlin. Through her work, she engages with artistic practices, methodologies and pedagogies that challenge contemporary forms of power. Among her topics of interest have been: the controversies of connectivity, the promises of the commons, the challenges of artistic subversion, the instrumentalization of play, the problematics of care and empathy, and most recently the potential of kin-making technologies in the time of climate crisis. Dragona was part of the core curatorial team of transmediale from 2015 until 2019, developing the conference and workshop program of the festival. Articles of hers have been published in various books, journals, magazines, and exhibition catalogs by the likes of Springer, Sternberg Press, and Leonardo Electronic Almanac. Talks of hers have been hosted at Mapping Festival (Geneva), MoMa (New York), Hek (Basel), Arts in Society (London), Leuphana University (Lueneburg) and Goethe University (Frankfurt). Among her curated -or co-curated- projects are the exhibitions: Tomorrows, Fictions spéculatives pour l’avenir méditerranéen (Le Lieu Unique, Nantes, 2019), “…” an archeology of silence in the digital age (Aksioma, Ljubljana, 2017), New Babylon Revisited (Goethe Institut Athen, 2014), Afresh, a new generation of Greek artists (ΕΜSΤ, 2013), Data Bodies – Networked Portraits (Fundacion Telefonica & Alta Tecnologia Andina 2011), Mapping the Commons Athens (EMST, 2010), Homo Ludens Ludens (Laboral, 2008). She has been a member of several committees for conferences and festivals and most recently she was a jury member and mentor for the Fellowship for Greek Young Artists of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. She holds a PhD from the Faculty of Communication & Media Studies of the University of Athens.
Pedro Oliveira is a researcher and sound artist whose work deals with the cultural and colonial articulations of listening, violence, and the policing of bodies in urban and border spaces. He holds a PhD from the University of the Arts Berlin.
Caroline Sinders is a machine learning researcher and artist obsessed with language, culture and images. Her work explores the intersections between natural language processing, artificial intelligence, abuse, online harassment, and politics in digital, conversational spaces. Her work has been featured in the Tate Exchange at the Tate Modern, Ars Electronica, Victoria and Albert Museum, MoMA Ps1, the Modern Art Museum of Bologna as well as others. She is the founder of Convocation Design + Research an agency focusing on the use of machine learning and design for public good.
Johanna Bruckner (*1984) is an artist whose work has been exhibited and performed internationally, as is currently the case at the 57th Venice Biennale, at MAMCO, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Geneva, in the Swiss Pavilion of the last Venice Architecture Biennale, at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, the KW, Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, the Galerie EIGEN+ART Lab, the Deichtorhallen, Sammlung Falckenberg, Hamburg. She was recently nominated for a Fellowship at Harvard University.
Hanna Husberg & Agata Marzecova
As the air became this number is part of »Towards atmospheric care«, an interdisciplinary project developed between Hanna Husberg, visual artist and researcher, and Agata Marzecova, researcher in ecology, photography & new media. Highlighting how science, technology and infrastructures allow for apprehending and sensing the environment in new ways, the project questions the potential of art-science-technology to reimagine other-than-neoliberal and pre-emptive technoecologies of air.