As algorithms ripple through and integrate deeper with our work and daily lives, future projections on work note creativity, flexibility and innovative thinking as key anticipated skill demands that will be required of employees. These skills, which have traditionally also been attributed to the profession of the artist, are supposed to be among those most resistant to or the least exposed to automation. And yet, many tasks which might entail human faculties such as intuition, empathy and creativity, are already being outsourced to increasingly capable automated and automatising systems that simply perform them differently.
”Since these technologies pervade the capitalist world of work—through the increasing replacement of workforce by industrial robotic arms and systems as well as through the increasingly algorithmic management of workers—why should it not be applied to the production of artworks? A seemingly light-hearted question that allows the artist to raise another, deeper question: can artistic creation be considered on the same level as other types of work? And ultimately, what does it mean to cast off the burden of choice to machines, what does it mean to try to distance oneself from one’s subjectivity while consciously choosing to delegate one’s decisions to a computer program?” (Aude Launay: The Statisticized Artist)
There are many ways to distil something into data points. Jahić converted her labour as an artist – her works, research and interests of the past 16 years – into data. As data, the features of her artworks become tables of numbers; each creative decision emerges in a row of digits.
The artist then turned the decision making over to a predictive algorithm, which she developed in collaboration with Iztok Lebar Bajec and Jure Demšar from the Faculty of Computer and Information Science in Ljubljana. The machine uses the dataset to sift through and identify patterns in her artistic labour in order to predict the content and aesthetics of her next artwork.
Yet such predictive power is limited in its forecast of the future outcome because it presents a selection among ready-made choices. And even though this may be an original selection, as a calculating predictor of the future, it is still effectively weighed down in the past. Every step of the way, the capability to create new choices is heavily constrained by choices that came before. In other words, conceiving artworks from the same conceptual depository is not really imagining something new, but a narrow alteration of existing inputs.
To break away from the machine algorithm rolling out combinations of prior data and to avoid sparking a feedback loop, the artist – in the final stage of this two-year project – provided the machine a look at her contemporary investigations as an early window into the present disorganization of her thoughts. Every word from every text that passed in front of her eyes expanded the database, opening new horizons of thought. The algorithm then determines tomorrow’s artwork based on observations today with the past flickering in the rear-view mirror. On the basis of the predictive model, Pataka was created, essentially a work that listens to what our voices tell machines about us. Read more
Technical support: Andrej Primožič
Graphic design: Vasja Cenčič
Development and programming of the predictive model and data visualisation: Iztok Lebar Bajec
Development and programming of the predictive model: Jure Demšar
Production: Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana
Co-production: Drugo more, Rijeka
Photos: Domen Pal / Aksioma
Year of production: 2018-2020