November 4 - December 10, 2020
A laboratory about counter-mapping networked infrastructures, finding ways to represent scaling issues, focusing on the huge and the tiny, the geologically slow and the superfast.
Taking Joler and Crawford’s “Anatomy of an AI system” as the starting point, you will be led into a roller coaster trip through the simple internet packet delivery system, following with Facebook’s sophisticated algorithmic factory, and going even deeper into fashionable corporate devices that actually operate as planetary-scale systems of knowledge extraction under the futurist label of machine learning and the likes.
As 21st century cartographers, you will be encouraged to journey both in time and space: from deep time of mineral formation to the fast future of dystopian social media, from the nano scale of battery molecules to the planetary scale of contemporary production and distribution supply chains. As a matter of fact, the main purpose of this laboratory is finding ways to represent such a scaling issue, focusing on either the big or the tiny, either the slow or the superfast.
The “Anatomy of an AI system” conceptual map will then appear as a narrative strategy that reduces complexity, magnifies details, follows narrative trails, or establishes links where apparently there is none. You will take from there, using your skills to dive, for instance, into site-specific research or follow the lifespan of one specific element. In the process you may find new lenses to focus on invisible phenomena or, on the contrary, zoom out and draw a whole new cosmo-technological cartography.
Mapping will be explored as a form of non-linear poetry or storytelling, where both technical tools (such as network graphs, metadata analysis, patent investigations, interface scraping) and a conceptual approach (assemblages, maps of errors, approximations, biases, faults, fallacies and vulnerabilities) will be necessary.
The laboratory is led by Vladan Joler, professor at the Academy of Arts of the University of Novi Sad and founder of SHARE Foundation. He is leading SHARE Lab, a research and investigation lab that explores the technical and social aspects of algorithmic transparency, digital labor exploitation, invisible infrastructures, and technological black boxes.
A distributed laboratory
Anatomies of a Black Box is aimed at an emerging cross-local network of tech-savvy artists, experimental designers, researchers and students (both undergraduate and postgraduate) who wish to explore alternatives to conventional artistic, academic, or market-oriented methods to respond to the complexity of a networked planet.
The Freeport 2020 season is a series of thematic laboratories led by internationally recognized artists and researchers with the participation of local collaborators. We are exploring the notion of “distributed workshop”: the labs are built around a versatile mix of online and offline activities that are tailored to content (rather than the other way around) and take place concurrently in Madrid, Barcelona, and other cities in Europe and elsewhere, where decentralized work teams carry out local research and development, while the coordination team syncs them through a program of shared online activities.
Online work = syncing
As a general rule, Anatomies of a Black Box is not going to be a screen intensive program and participants will spend limited, yet quality time while online. The online sessions in the calendar are shared moments with short lectures, explanations of tools, questions and answers, but also chatting and exchanging impressions, ideas, and feedback.
Online sessions will be devoted to:
- Introductions to topics and methods
- Learning basic tools and strategies for online artistic research
- Work sessions & follow-up: participants cases, advice, doubts
- Informalities and getting to know each other
- Final showcase and comments on participants’ work.
Offline work = your contribution
The program is aimed at getting participants to observe their own environment (both online and offline), find inspiration in other participants’ reports, create (images, methods, stories, platforms, etc.), and then share the results with the rest of the gang.
Examples of specific tasks to be performed autonomously / locally:
- Assignments, exercises, challenges
- Observation, exploration, and research tasks
- Drafting or developing a project proposal
Online sessions each Wednesday & Thursday at 11am CET
- Week 1
Anatomy of an AI System: methodology, process, results
- Week 2
New Extractivism: a different approach
- Week 3
Guest speaker: Kate Crawford
Guest speaker: Adam Harvey
- Week 4
Developing a research idea
- Week 5
Conversations with Vladan Joler & mentoring
- Week 6
The end as beginning: presentation of possible and impossible research ideas
How to turn a laboratory into a book of intuitions
You say that this is an online and offline laboratory. What does that mean, exactly?
It means that we will have some online shared moments (see online sessions above) while the rest of the time you will work with your team in person, if possible. Each team’s autonomous work is key to make this laboratory happen.
Are there any required skills to participate?
No specific expertise is necessary to attend this program, and yet some basic skills with digital creation technologies will definitely help, as well as familiarity with either art making, video making, design, journalism, or online activism. The purpose of FREEPORT is to circulate ideas, tools and tactics to accelerate creative practices in any of those fields.
I’m no expert in the topic of this laboratory, yet I’m passionate about it and I have a few ideas. Should I apply?
Absolutely! The key aspect of this program will be mixing up creative people with different backgrounds, strong motivations and – why not? – wild ideas. That’s why experienced artists or designers are welcome to join, as well as creators with a shorter or incipient career, including undergraduate and postgraduate students. If you are not sure whether your profile fits in this program, please let us know in your application email and we’ll try and give you an opinion.
You encourage participants to apply as a “node” or small team. What does that mean?
The participants in this hybrid decentralized lab will be “nodes”, that is: small teams, preferably teams whose members will be able to meet in person. We may not be allowed to have all of you working in the same room due to the pandemic, but you may still be able to meet in person with your team.
So, what should a “node” look like?
A “node” should be a small team of 2 to 5 people. A node can be either an existing collective, studio or work team, or just a group of people that join forces for the occasion. The best nodes/teams may be the ones with a mix of different skills (visuals, graphic design, writing, tech, performance, etc. etc.)
I don’t have a team, can I still apply as an individual?
Yes, but if your application will be successful you will be warmly encouraged to work in a team with others.
What kind of output should I expect? How will this lab help me in my work or research?
The output of this program really depends on you. Our purpose is to assist in the development of your ideas, both new or rooted in your previous projects. We will encourage discovery and unconventional paths in research and creation. So, if you already have some ideas but no specific plan about them, after this program you may be able to design a first draft to turn them into an art/design/critical technology project. Or, if you are already developing a project, after this program you may be able to update it, evolve it or make it stronger.
Will you support the production of output?
We will consider your proposal and if it is consistent with the topic and objective of the lab we will be ready to cover some basic production expenses.
Is there a waiting list for those who have not been selected?
Yes! If there will be the chance to include more applicants, people on the waiting list will be notified immediately as soon as there will be a free seat in the workshop.
Should I attend all online sessions?
It’s highly recommended. If possible, at least one person of each node/team should attend online sessions. Otherwise you will not have the chance to get feedback about your work and showcase it in the final sessions.
Co-produced by Estudios Críticos program of Matadero Madrid
Supported by Institut de Cultura of Barcelona and Departament de Cultura of the Generalitat de Catalunya