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Exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery explores machines and the imitation of life
James Capper, TELESTEP, 2015. The Imitation Game, Installation View, Manchester Art Gallery. Photo: Michael Pollard.
MANCHESTER.- Manchester Art Gallery presents The Imitation Game, an exhibition by eight international contemporary artists who explore the theme of machines and the imitation of life. The exhibition includes work by artists Ed Atkins, James Capper, Paul Granjon, Tove Kjellmark, Lynn Hershman Leeson, David Link, Mari Velonaki and Yu-Chen Wang. With a title inspired by Alan Turing’s ‘Turing Test’, devised to test a computer’s ability to imitate human thought, introduced in an article while he was working at The University of Manchester, The Imitation Game includes three new commissions and works never before seen in the UK.

Manchester has a rich history of computer science, as the birthplace of the industrial machineage, where the world’s first stored-program computer was developed. The exhibition looks back to Turing’s timeless questions about our relationship with the machine, and explores their continuing relevance today. The Imitation Game forms a major contribution to Manchester’s role as European City of Science 2016 with new commissions, a publication and a public programme of talks, performances and workshops.

The exhibition includes:

• Lynn Hershman Leeson, renowned for her pioneering use of new technologies and exploration of human/machine relationships over three decades. Hershman Leeson shows Agent Ruby (1998-2002), an artificially intelligent web agent. Over time, Ruby’s software has allowed her conversational abilities to become increasingly sophisticated, pointing to her seemingly independent craving for full personhood and recognition as a human being.

• Paul Granjon is interested in the co-evolution of humans and machines. He has created a new work, Am I Robot, featuring a robotic presence which roams the gallery, interacting with visitors in some surprising and intriguing ways. Granjon is also presenting a live performance during the exhibition.

• Tove Kjellmark’s has created a new robotic artwork in collaboration with the School of Computer Science at The University of Manchester and KTH, Stockholm. Two robots discuss the nature of human consciousness, their behaviour determined by SpiNNaker brain-simulation technology developed in Manchester.

• In 2015, Yu-Chen Wang was the Museum of Science and Industry’s artist-in-residence, supported by the Taipei Representative Office in the UK. Her research on machine objects in the museum’s collection has inspired an ambitious new work, Heart to Heart, exploring human qualities in machines, which is shown at both Manchester Art Gallery and the Museum of Science and Industry, including a science fiction text, live performances, a film and installation.

• David Link’s installation LoveLetters 1.0 is directly inspired by the history of computing at The University of Manchester and explores the relationship between machine logic and the imagination. In 1953-4, strange love-letters appeared on the Computing department noticeboard. One of the very first software developers, Christopher Strachey, had programmed a very early computer to generate love letters. In a meticulous restoration project, Link has written a contemporary version of the program to run on a replica computer.

• James Capper creates walking, climbing, drawing machines inspired by the aesthetics of earth moving equipment and industrial machinery. Capper presents TELESTEP, a new prototype walking sculpture, which he will operate live in the gallery on advertised dates during the exhibition. He also exhibits an existing work, TREAD TOE, outside the gallery building.

• Mari Velonaki’s Fish-Bird is an interactive installation that explores the relationship between two characters (robotic wheelchairs) called Fish and Bird, who have fallen in love but cannot successfully be together. Communicating through movement and text. Fish and Bird are responsive to the presence of gallery visitors, their own relationship and “emotional states”, with incredibly complex and unpredictable behaviour.

• For Manchester International Festival in 2015, UK artist Ed Atkins presented Performance Capture at Manchester Art Gallery. Performances by MIF artists were captured onto computer, digitally modelled, cut and soundtracked, and then screened as a single computer-generated figure or avatar. For The Imitation Game, Atkins returns to Manchester Art Gallery with his final video work from the Performance Capture process.

Maria Balshaw, Director of the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester and Manchester City Galleries said: “The Imitation Game explores the legacy of Turing's ideas through extraordinary work by eight international artists. The exhibition is taking shape thanks to ambitious collaborations and I am delighted that Manchester Art Gallery will make such a great contribution to the cultural programme for City of Science 2016.”






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