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Josh Harle, Art Punters Freak Me Out, long-wave infrared camera livestream with computer vision processing (screenshot), 2018
Machine Aesthetics of the Human Body
It’s natural for us to see through a human lens. When we look out into the world we see it populated by the familiar; animals and devices imbued with human emotion and agency.
With the rapid development and adoption of artificial intelligence and autonomous robotics, their humanoid faces may give us comfort, but beneath the facade they look back with a machine perspective. While we anthropomorphise them, they are ‘mechanomorphising’ us – seeing us as machines.
From surgical robot models, crash test dummies, sex robots, to automated battlefield drones and guns and the ethics algorithms of self-driving cars, machines uniquely perceive us according to their own internal ‘aesthetics’. These functional abstractions are the result of military strategy, politics, and business logic, along with the baked-in, implicit worldview of their creators. Many of these are also deeply and disconcertingly alien to our idea of human.
Art can help critique these models: it’s all about exploring speculative ways of perceiving, understanding, and representing the world.
Researcher and artist Dr Josh Harle explores how artists, working at the intersection of technology and science, can help us meaningfully engage with complex systems, giving us a more critical perspective on the future of these technologies. Moreover, rather than being relegated to the realm of “visual communication”, art can provide a valuable and timely contribution to research.
Dr Josh Harle
Dr Josh Harle is the director of Tactical Space Lab, and current Visiting Fellow at UNSW. His doctoral thesis combined study in Computer Science and Cybernetics, Philosophy, and Art to investigate how digital technology is used to makes sense of the world. ‘Human Jerky’, shown at Verge Gallery in 2018 and curated by researcher and artist Dr Josh Harle, illustrated the monstrous, alien, and frankly terrifying visions of the Human that emerging technologies use through the related practices of five artists.