Artificial ecosystems, storytelling and alternative infospheres.
Feileacan Kirkbride McCormick (Entangled Others Studio) and Elena Falomo in conversation with Valentino Catricalà.
European Culture & Creativity Days Bologna
October 13th 2023 h 16.30
at Cortile Guido Fanti
Palazzo d’Accursio, Bologna
In conclusion of the European Culture & Creativity Days Bologna event, Parsec presents a conversation between Elena Falomo, artist, designer and engineer, and Feileacan Kirkbride McCormick, artist and co-founder with Sofia Crespo of Entangled Others Studio.
Throughout the day, a fundamental question followed us: how can the creativity of the present, supported by new technologies, skills, and relationships, help define the culture, society, and well-being of the future? In this conversation, the guest artists will share with the audience their practices and talk about how these are evolving through the use of new technologies, resulting in works of considerable artistic value and with potential for significant social impact. Through their different research, they will suggest an interesting perspective on the important synergy between creativity, technology and social change.
Consider Critically Extant by Entangled Others Studio, a project that aims to explore our limited knowledge of the natural world by testing the boundaries of freely accessible data in our digital lives. To carry out this project, artificial intelligence algorithms were trained on a large collection of open source images representing about ten thousand different species. The generated models were used to create visual representations of species classified as “critically endangered” but poorly or not at all represented online. Thus, one of the features of this work is also to inspire new ways to create positive digital resonances for the ecosystem. Elena Falomo’s AI Futurism project, on the other hand, questions the gradual impact of artificial intelligence in the creation of narratives and shows, at the same time, how AI can support the human creative process, leading to the cooperative design of scenarios that emerge from our intuitions. Project outcomes have ranged from more-than-human courts to political campaigns for imaginary candidates, from 360-degree photographs to hack Google Maps to ecological urban planning proposals.
Entangled Others Studio’s art practice might, at first glance, seem very different from Elena Falomo’s. However, they share some common tools that are fundamental to the development of their diverse research.
Let us start with the main element of their works: data. On the one hand, these are used to create ecosystems with the help of artificial intelligence, also stimulating reflection on the inherent biases present in each dataset and shaping the way we perceive nature, technology and their interaction. On the other hand, the degree to which we are aware of the origin and use of such data is questioned, prompting reflections on the governance of algorithms, strategies and mechanisms that spread information and misinformation.
Another common element in the work of Entangled Others Studio and Falomo can be found in storytelling and speculation. Telling different stories is fundamental to imagining the future. The stories we do not yet know are what can inspire us, and art and new technologies can give us a better sense of our connection and entanglement with the world, rather than causing us to drift away from it.
For Entangled Others Studio, imagining an ecosystem is equivalent to telling a story about the unknown, by making a possibility visible. Falomo, through role-playing and alternative narratives, imagines subverting the normalized hierarchy of information systems.
The research of the artists involved in this conversation thus touches, by similar means, on two different domains that are intertwined in complex ways: the ecological and the informational, speculating on contemporary issues such as the environmental crisis and the Anthropocene, as well as infodemic and data privacy concerns.
The proposed panel aims to reflect on how algorithms, artificial intelligence, and new technologies influence artistic creation and how these extractive software can question the figure of the artist, opening a debate on the social impact of contemporary art practices, as well as on automation and the limits of copyright. Together with moderator Valentino Catricalà, Falomo and McCormick will therefore explore the meaning of art in a changing contemporary landscape.
Human beings, the biosphere of which they are a part, the data they produce, and emerging technologies can generate positive and empowering narratives, subverting classical conceptions of progress, nature and individuals.
In fact, the term innovation refers not only to the use of the latest technologies for the creation of works, but also and above all to show the possibilities that these technologies offer for reflecting on urgent contemporary issues.
On the one hand, for example, Entangled Others Studio suggests a new vision and overcoming of the nature vs. technology binomial. Technology is thus not seen as something outside the natural, but, like everything around us, is itself part of it.
Instead, through design and participatory methodologies, Falomo develops devices, software and online tools that enable the circulation of data in a way that is not extractive and controlling, but useful and co-designed by and for the community.
Quoting contemporary philosopher Timothy Morton, “The potential for being ecological in art is opening up to a non-anthropocentric normative world of beautiness and wonder1“.
Feileacan Kirkbride McCormick and Elena Falomo will take us on an engaging journey through their tales and speculative games in this way. Through their extraordinary beauty, these works will fascinate us, but, at the same time, they will keep us “staying with the trouble2“, as philosopher Donna Haraway suggests, and make us reflect on fundamental questions and issues of our time.
Elena Falomo is a designer interested in digital, social and ecological matters. She likes to carefully investigate systems welcoming complexity and ambiguity to design more equitable and participated futures (and presents). She’s also a passionate educator teaching in universities across Europe creative technologies and design.
Feileacan Kirkbride McCormick is a Norwegian artist, researcher and former architect. His practice focuses on ecology, nature & generative arts, with a focus on giving non-human new forms of presence & life in the digital space. He, and his practice, takes its form as one half of the artistic duo Entangled Others.