Embrace the interconnectivity of everything with Memo Akten's multi-screen work exploring the merging of human and non-human consciousness – via the coded AI musings of octopus-like digital beings.
Originally beginning as an NFT collection on the ecologically friendly blockchain Tezos, Memo Akten's eight-channel video installation, Distributed Consciousness, features 256 unique images of octopus-like Tentacular Critters created with custom Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning coded by the artist.
It was later revealed that each image had AI-generated text cryptographically encoded in it – a Verse. Invisible to the human eye, but readable by code, the collection forms a poem, a book, a manifesto. The manifesto is a human-machine co-creation meditation spanning consciousness, free will, life, death, art, technology, ritual, ecology, economy and sustainability. Each Verse was released as an audio-visual reading.
Cephalopods are incredibly intelligent; only 10% of their neurons are in a central brain, while the rest is distributed across their body, with two thirds in their arms. In a sense, they have a decentralised nervous system. Distributed Consciousness draws parallels between the distributed computation performed by smart-contract based blockchains, and the anthropological timeline, with differently evolved mythologies and deities, promoting alternative cultural values to the exploitative, extractivist, purely profit-driven neoliberal world we find ourselves in today.
Staged as a place of worship, our Tentacular deities invite us to face our final Copernican Trauma, to face the reality that humans may not be the sole keepers of what we think of as “intelligence”, “creativity” or even “consciousness”. The project also uses the extraordinary alien intelligence of cephalopods, to reflect on the new synthetic alien intelligences we are building in machines in the form of AI.
In these times of ecological collapse and urgency, we are invited to let go of the dangerous dichotomy of “Man vs Nature”, and instead embrace the interconnectedness of all human, non-human, living and non-living things across manifold scales of time and space, and actively work towards multi-species flourishing.
Distributed Consciousness is generously supported by Naomi Milgrom AC and the Naomi Milgrom Foundation. Through this important partnership, we will commission and present major works across an international moving image art series, building on ACMI and Naomi Milgrom AC’s experience of supporting, commissioning and presenting leading artists working with the moving image globally.
Memo Akten is a multi-disciplinary artist, musician, researcher and computer scientist from Istanbul, Turkey, currently based in Los Angeles. He explores the tensions between ecology, technology, science and spirituality; studying intelligence in nature, intelligence in machines, perception, consciousness, neuroscience, physics and (philosophies of) spirituality, ritual and religion. He uses code as his craft to create images, sounds, films, large-scale responsive installations and performances. He received his PhD from Goldsmiths University of London, specialising in creative applications of Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning with Meaningful Human Control, and in this field he is considered one of the world’s leading pioneers. He is currently Assistant Professor of Computational Art and Design at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Akten is a frequent keynote speaker on topics involving art, science, technology and culture.
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