Exhibition seeks to examine the real-world impact of computer vision

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Exhibition seeks to examine the real-world impact of computer vision
Stephanie Dinkins, Still from Conversations with Bina48, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

CHICAGO, IL.- The Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago is presenting In Real Life from January 16 – March 29, 2019. As the powerful technology behind artificial intelligence grows more sophisticated, machines have developed the capacity to not only capture images but to “see” them as well. In Real Life is an exhibition seeking to examine the real-world impact of computer vision—from the murky ethics of data collection and surveillance to the racial and gender biases that abound in facial recognition technology.

Highlights from the exhibition include pieces by Stephanie Dinkins, whose work grapples with the intersection of artificial intelligence and race. In Conversations with Bina48 (2015), Dinkins converses with the social robot prototype Bina48, who responds to her questions about life, social equity, and racism. Her other piece on view which addresses similar concerns is Not the Only One (N’TOO) (2017), a voice-interactive chatbot that is equipped to converse about the black experience by telling the multigenerational story of the artist’s own family. Trevor Paglen’s Behold These Glorious Times! (2017) also explores the unsettling nature of machine learning, juxtaposing photos and videos that are used to train AI to “see” objects, people, gestures, and emotions.

Other works in In Real Life examine how technology and surveillance increasingly inform our daily lives, particularly videos by artists Liam Young and Xu Bing. In Liam Young’s Where the City Can’t See (2016), workers in a fictionalized Chinese-controlled Detroit Economic Zone (DEZ) move through their dystopic city in a driverless taxi, searching for spaces beyond the surveilled city. In Xu Bing’s Dragonfly Eyes (2016), 10,000 hours of actual surveillance footage is woven together to tell a story that is voiced by actors, blurring the lines between fiction and perceived reality.

In Real Life includes works by Stephanie Dinkins, Trevor Paglen, Leo Selvaggio, Maija Tammi, José Orlando Villatoro, Xu Bing, and Liam Young, and features photography, video, and mixed media installations. These seven artists explore the increasingly fraught relationship between humans and technology, with an emphasis on the social and aesthetic ramifications of machine “seeing.” With a charged underpinning of human biases, these pieces, many of which were generated through algorithmic technology, present a speculative near-future wherein the socio-political consequences of AI have already begun to compromise how we visualize the world—and our humanity.

In Real Life is organized by MoCP executive director Natasha Egan. The MoCP will present a special screening on February 4, 2020 of Dragonfly Eyes with Xu Bing. Stephanie Dinkins will give a lecture on February 13, 2020.

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