Marco Donnarumma: Performing AI – otherness, doom and the arts (17.05.2022)
In the past sixty years, the notion of artificial intelligence (AI) morphed as drastically as the efficiency of its algorithms. Originally a niche area of study derived from cybernetics, it later enjoyed alternating times of importance and irrelevance, including an eerily-named „AI winter“. In the last decade a particular approach to AI gained high currency, one dependent on statistics, large computing power resources and vast amounts of user-generated data. This strain of AI research has quickly posited itself as one of the staples of contemporary capitalist societies, as well as a culturally and environmentally corroding agent largely owned by a few corporations. The effects on Western media art and performing arts have been massive, with notions such as creativity, autonomy and responsibility being put into question.
In this talk I will attempt to observe a few features of this cultural shift through the subjective lens of my practice as an artist and researcher. I will discuss some of my artworks with machine learning, robotics and AI reflecting on the particular techno-cultural contexts in which they were created. The discussion of the works will span the past decade, hopefully offering some insight into the shifting meanings of AI in public discourse. On one hand, this will provide a look into some of the possible approaches to computational agency in the media and performing arts. On the other, the discussion may help us trace connections among cultural conceptions of otherness, media art as critical research and capital-driven technological development.
Marco Donnarumma (DE) is an artist, performer, stage director and scholar weaving together contemporary performance, new media art and interactive computer music since the early 2000s. He manipulates bodies, creates choreographies, engineers machines and composes sounds, thus combining disciplines, media and emerging technologies into an oneiric, sensual, uncompromising aesthetics. He is internationally acknowledged for solo performances, stage productions and installations that defy genres, and where the body becomes a morphing language to speak critically of ritual, power and technology. Donnarumma’s latest cycle of dancetheater productions, performances and robotic installations is entitled 7 Configurations. It dissects the conflicts between AI and body politics through human-machine choreographic methods aimed at experimenting with the corporeal and psychological relationships of four human performers and six AI prostheses. In 2019, he co-founded the performance artists group Fronte Vacuo with Margherita Pevere and Andrea Familari. Their series Humane Methods consists of hybrid live art events as social experiments, where human performers and audiences, non-human organisms and AI-driven machines expose the violence of today’s algorithmic societies. Donnarumma holds a Ph.D. in performing arts, computing and body theory from Goldsmiths, University of London. He is currently a Research Associate at the Intelligent Instruments Lab at the Iceland University of the Arts, Reykjavik. His writings are published by MIT Press, Oxford University Press, Routledge, ACM and Springer.