“Witnessing” is a creative project and collaborative response to a recent exhibit, “Witness,” at the New Media Gallery (New Westminster, Canada) that included the works of Adam Basanta, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, France Cadet, Bjorn Schulke and Stanza. Graduate students in the Critical Media Arts Studio (cMAS) at Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) created web-based responses to the exhibit that address questions of surveillance and human-machine communication. As a companion to the web-based projects, a low-fi zine and book were also created. “Human Memory Database,” by Frederico Machuca, presents an ominous interactive future database of human memories. Jo Shin’s project, “You.got.a.pic?” draws upon themes of immediacy in a hyper-mediated world. When sent selfie images, the AI responds to an email with modified machine vision: a distorted view of the original selfie. Xavier Wu’s project, Sentinel 002, imagines an AI capable of recording and learning from human language through Twitter feeds. These works express the uneasy marriage of our shared technological fears and desires. Drawing on the theoretical concepts of format specificity, materiality, and the role bureaucracy plays in the development of media technologies, the zine includes the analog counter-parts to the web-based projects. It encourages the reader to contemplate how a future machine might learn of our thoughts, memories, languages, and visions. We propose to include these web-based projects and the online archived zine as a way to imagine a speculative future where humans are forced to spy on an omnipotent machine – a future, we argue, that is too frightening not to be prepared for.
Editors: Dr. Hannah Turner and Dr. Gabriela Aceves Sepulveda
Artists: Jo Shin, Xavier Wu, Frederico Machuca