Hyperemployment at MGLC, Ljubliana

I'm happy to announce Hyperemployment, the exhibition I've been working on along the past year. Produced by Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana and featuring the work of artists Danilo Correale, Elisa Giardina Papa, Sanela Jahić, Silvio Lorusso, Jonas Lund, Michael Mandiberg, Sebastian Schmieg, Guido Segni, the exhibition will be on display at MGLC - International Centre of Graphic Arts, Ljubljana from November 7, 2019 to January 19, 2020. More info about the show and a press kit are available here.

The group show is the centerpiece of Hyperemployment - Post-work, Online Labour and Automation, a year-long programme I co-curated with Janez Janša for Aksioma. Featuring the group exhibition, a symposium, several solo exhibitions, and a final catalogue presentation, Hyperemployment addresses a variety of topics, from automation to the gig economy, the end of free time and the rise of self-improvement apps, social media fatigue and quantification, and more. Feel free to download our beautiful brochure here.

Hyperemployment is a word borrowed from media theorist Ian Bogost, which describes “the exhausting work of the technology user”. The visual identity for all the programme has been designed by the amazing Superness (Federico Antonini and Alessio D'Ellena). If you are in Ljubljana on November 7, please join us at the opening!

Talk to Me by Jonas Lund

Among the other works, Hypermployment will premiere the new editorial shape of Talk To Me (2017 - 2019) by Jonas Lund, a three years long online project inviting people to chat with a chatbot version of the artist. The project amassed something like 1.6 million lines of text, which have been translated into a shelf installation of 36 heavy volumes with the help, again, of stellar designer Federico Antonini / Superness. For the books, I wrote a short text that you can enjoy below.

On October 21, 2017, at 6:17 PM, Jonas reached out to me with a proposal: to turn his online piece, Talk to Me, launched a few months before, into a book. According to the official text, “Talk to Me is a conversational chatbot, […] trained and modelled on all previous instant message conversations (Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger) as typed by the artist himself to create a smart, machine-learned, automatically talking version of the artist.” But in reality, Jonas told me, “it’s just me typing the answers through a Telegram bot, so each time someone uses the website I get a message on my phone and I answer.”
I liked the proposal. I’d had a couple of short conversations on the website before this revelation, and I’d never perceived Jonas’s chatting with me as something different from a chatbot. He repeated my sentences, he answered with questions, he looked pretty dumb, just like a bot. This switch, from a bot emulating a human to a human emulating a bot (pretending to be him), opened up a whole new range of questions and issues and changed the piece from a software intervention on the artificial intelligence hype into a daily, exhausting performance.
Anyway, at that time, the possibility of publishing the book faded out, only to return about two years and 1.6 million messages later. Parsing these thousands of pages, you will be confronted with a monumental, three-year, outsourced, unsuccessful effort to perform and re-enact the Turing Test, involving hundreds of participants from all over the world. I say “unsuccessful” because “Jonas” is actually a hybrid intelligence, part human, part software. The “real” Jonas is there, but often the chatbot takes over the chat, as it becomes crystal clear when the software crashes and starts endlessly looping the same series of sentences. But sometimes the “real” Jonas comes back, and as he tries to behave like a bot, you can never really say who’s speaking from behind the screen. The opacity of online communication, together with a masterful application of the liar paradox, protects Jonas from all our efforts to understand who or what is actually talking to us. But, of course, the same opacity protects the visitors as well. How many humans have been chatting with Jonas? And how many bots?
This can be seen very well in Jonas’s chat with a user named “Tarball”. On May 3, 2017, after asking each other to prove they are not robots, Tarball writes: “Too bad Jonas! Nobody can prove anything here! What a mess!” And Jonas: “That’s my point Tarball.” The day after, Tarball comes back as “pup”, saying: “Here is what I think. This app actually involves both a bot and a human. The automaton does all the quick answers and makes sure the answers remain fast. The human adds an (sic!) layer of reflection, selective memory and prediction.” Jonas: “That is not correct Tarball.” pup: “shit”. Jonas: “shit”.
It’s thanks to this endless, flexible play on identity that Talk to Me becomes an apt metaphor of the human-software continuum that we experience online on a daily basis, with all its consequences and biases: the end of truth, the exploitation of AI to fake human communication, and the exploitation of humans to fake automation.

Fresh and stale news...

。・゚゚・ The Link Art Center, a eight years adventure in publishing, managing and curating, is over! This is the announcement we published on our website, with a short resumé of our activities from 2011 to 2019; and this is an interview we had with Valentina Tanni for Artribune, providing some more explanation: Italian version (“Chiude il Link Art Center, intervista ai fondatori”) and an English version kindly provided by Google's AI with some help by yours truly.

⋆ ˚。⋆୨୧˚ 2019 is a video essay made by the students of my “Interactive Systems” class in the MA in Net Art and Digital Cultures at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara. Based on chapter “2019” of Ray Kurzweil's book The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), it's an attempt to remap the actual present over the predicted future. Have a look at it before the year is over!

♥*♡∞:。.。 Back in June, I reviewed Rhizome's Net Art Anthology for Camera Austria. You can download and read the pdf here.

**•̩̩͙✩•̩̩͙*˚ Don't forget to check out the amazing book Museums at the Post-Digital Turn, edited by Lorenzo Giusti and Nicola Ricciardi and published by Mousse Publishing. The reader is a curated collection of essays by art critics, philosophers, curators, designers, researchers and conservators, whose considerations address the transformations in the contemporary landscape of fruition and production of art. My featured text focuses on the need - or lack thereof - of special exhibition strategies for exhibiting digital art.

Copyshamelessly Domenico Quaranta
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