Third Space AI
2021 – Project
Associate Professor of Immersive Media, Coventry University
Can artificial intelligence create art?
As Associate Professor in the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry University, my research is situated between art, anthropology and technology. I lead a research theme called AI and Algorithmic Cultures, engaging in practice-based research, visual and posthuman ethnography, often working in collaboration with scientists, technologists and other artists to produce physical and digital artworks and performances.
About the collaboration
What is research anyway? It’s the search for re, for a question never asked. Re: search, we searched, but instead of finding a question we found a questioner, and the re became a we, as we were joined by others. ‘AI’ you could say, aye, but AI is neither artificial nor intelligent, depending on your definition. With a ‘Generative Pre-trained Transformer’ however, the question became a conversation, and as a result, our outputs may have been produced by any or all of us, and may change in different times and places. For we had to step outside of time and space, not to a commercial ‘metaverse’ but to a meta:verse where poetry and allusion are better suited to search for questions. Time is the measure of change, said Aristotle. But he’s long gone, and both time and measure have outlived their usefulness. It’s time-reversal symmetry, say the physicists: the equations work in both directions. But an equation is not a question, and the question is this: Can machines make meaning in post-rational ways? The answer is yes, but you need to look in between the words and between the lines, and not look at things directly.
Something that became apparent straight away was the way that the distinction between artist and researcher became incredibly blurred within this collaboration – resulting from the varied and sometimes unconventional experience we have between us.
Kevin approaches AI from a unique and creative perspective that resonated with Edie and her practice. After a frenetic and energising first meeting in which we identified multiple points of connection between our practices, the collaboration developed into a series of exchanges of ideas and references that pushed us both in new directions.
We unexpectedly found ourselves utilising the entire length of the collaboration as a period of experimentation. Like our resulting nonlinear narrative, as the investigation of each thought and point of reference so readily unearthed another, we enjoyed the flow of moving between ideas and creating multiple small experimental prototypes rather than working toward a singular final goal. This was a new way of working and really valuable. We both intend to continue this process of iteration and experimentation and feel the creative outputs of this collaboration are far from exhausted. We would like to put some of the ideas documented here into a publication or further works.
Edie Jo Murray
Edie Jo Murray is a UK-based artist with a desire to disrupt what you understand as reality.
Third Space AI is an interactive, non-linear web-based artwork, designed to create a unique, non-prescriptive journey where deeper meanings about AI, divination and prediction may be glimpsed. At moments the visitor becomes a part of the narrative via various means, and no two experiences are entirely the same.
This work was created as an outcome of our project Third Space AI. ‘Third Space’ is a concept developed 1000 years ago by the Persian philosopher Suhrawardi to describe a place in between the senses and intellect, a ‘land of non-where’ that exists invisibly alongside our own.
What struck me greatly about Kevin’s research was how often concepts arose in our discussions that I was already exploring within my own practice, just not in relation to AI. Particularly the act of identifying patterns and connections, and how we determine which are meaningful or valuable.
The work began as a non-linear narrative experience – The AI, The Oracle, & I; – that now sits as an element within the site. The artwork takes the form of an imagined computer desktop that the visitor can explore to uncover various outcomes of the collaboration and my responses to Kevin’s research.
The piece was born out of incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning into a concept we have both been wrestling with for some time. Society is unavoidably structured in such a way that certain perceptions and experiences are considered to have greater value or accuracy than others, and this categorisation is overwhelmingly subjective. We are interested in the varying ways that individuals and cultures consider methods of prediction and interpret meaning in the world, both now and historically. As a contemporary prediction and interpretation engine, AI easily becomes part of this consideration.
Through a series of ambiguously connected pieces of text, images and interactive media, the piece confronts questions of how we determine the meaning, validity and value of perceived connections. I see Third Space AI as a work that is still in development and will continue to evolve as I delve deeper into these topics, having only so far scratched the surface.
About the artist
My name is Edie and I often refer to myself as a reality escape artist. My practice is heavily concerned with using art as a method to explore the ways in which reality is unfixed and subjective, and to imagine alternatives to the world(s) we know.
I am excited by anything that breaks the illusion of a fixed reality – as well as the different ways we explain these moments depending on the context. Where is the line or overlap between spiritualism, psychosis, superstition and hallucination? Arising from a curious and serendipitous combination of lived experience, I find myself obsessed with the peculiarity of our known world and driven to find cracks that let me glimpse beyond it.
I have an overactive inclination to identify connections between things and ideas. I position myself as an inquisitive explorer rather than expert or teacher. My work extends an invitation to join me on an experimental deep dive into the most weird and fascinating elements of existence.
My practice includes the creation of dreamy fantasy worlds and otherworldly spaces. These are often realised digitally, using VR and computer-rendered imagery as tools to construct and explore imagined spaces. I’m interested in the thresholds between states of existence, using AR and physical interventions as bridges between digital, physical and mental worlds.
My physical practice is very much sensory-driven, using material exploration as a way to distort experiences of ‘real world’ space and inspire immersion and presence. I like to skirt along the vague line between the real and unreal, and I enjoy inviting people into extraordinary spaces.