Algorithmic Gesturing, a 2020 Artwork from MoRM

This video piece was first shown at “DEEP FAKE” SciArt Initiative exhibition at SUPERCOLLIDER Gallery November 15, 2020 through Jan 5, 2021. The piece is part of the Museum of Random Memory (MoRM), which focuses on the ethics of datafication and automated decision making on identity, digital archiving, and future cultural memory, involving more than 30 researchers, artists, and activists from around the world. Voice and video of interview with Trine Le Fabour was recorded in 2017 by MoRM researchers at CounterPlay Festival in Denmark.

This video is a remix by Annette Markham, adapted from Memory Glitch, a MoRM multi-channel installation exhibited in 2018, in Aarhus, Denmark, created and curated by Ann Light, Annette Markham, Mórna O’Connor, Robert Ochshorn, and Gabriel Pereira. Algorithmic Gesturing is part of the works emerging from the Museum of Random Memory, a series of arts-based research interventions (2016-2019) created by Diogo Agostinho, Dalida María Benfield, Chris Bratton, Martin Brynskov, Gita Chandra, Ramona Riin Dremljuga, JV Fuqua, Anu Harju, Elyzabeth Holford, Ksinnia Kalugina, Justin Lacko, Deborah Lanzeni, Bente Larsen, Ann Light, Kristjan Maalt, Larisa Kingston Mann, Annette Markham, Nathália Novais, Robert Ochshorn, Mórna O’Connor, Kasper Ostrowski, Gabriel Pereira, Mads Rehder, Sarah Schorr, Andrew Sempere, Sava Saheli Singh, Maria Hougaard Sørensen, Kristoffer Thyrrestrup, and Elizabeth Whitney. Voice and video of Trine Le Febour was recorded in 2017 by MoRM researchers at CounterPlay Festival in Denmark.

As we surf, swipe, click, and post, digital traces create temporal shadows behind us. As these data leave our bodies, they develop lives of their own. Tangling with other data, clusters of cultural significance are generated.

As data formats change, or we cede personal and cultural memory to the machinic, the algorithmic, the corporate, what is transformed? What is remembered (re-membered), represented (re-presented)? In the age of AI, who or what has control of cultural memory, and with what consequence?

Algorithmic Gesturing troubles the idea of singular connections between memory and archives as well as the ethics of changing data formats. As an elderly woman tries to donate a memory to be archived—Germans occupying her Danish hometown during WWII, her story is continually interrupted, morphed, overlaid with multiple voices and images. While brief moments of her original videorecorded conversation might be glimpsed, most of the video data has been stripped to the gestural by a predictive algorithm that focuses only on the data points generated by her hand gestures and head movements. 

The original algorithmically generated video that forms the base for this remix was coded and designed by computational artist Robert Ochshorn. Audio overlays include excerpts from The Organic Notebooks (Agnes Denes), Staying with the Trouble (Donna Haraway), and Annette’s own essays. The consequent remix intends to raise questions about the complex politics of datafication of memories and the power of AI to morph and shift the shades and characters of cultural history.