Agnès Villette (London, England) & Grégoire Dupond (British Columbia, Canada)
Data and personal information have become a major part of our lives due to the digital threads we disseminate through our use of social media and online buying. Scandals and revelations touching the use of private information have gradually expanded public awareness. Data is sensitive to hacking, commercial use and identity violation. In Betabunker, artists Villette and Dupond visually explore a decommissioned nuclear bunker which has become one of the biggest data centers in Scandinavia. Hidden away from states, hackers, and supposedly safe from cyber attacks, thousands of computers are processing information or mining cryptocurrencies such as Ether or Bitcoin. In the grey zone of underground secrecy, our future is being designed and redefined by technologies. Using analogue photography, a 360 camera, and VR animation film, Betabunker provides a rare insight into a dystopian world in the making.
Martín Nadal & César Escudero Andaluz (Linz, Austria)
Bittercoin is an old calculator machine hacked to be used as a miner validating the pending Bitcoin transactions in the blockchain. Bitcoin is a virtual currency that enables people to buy goods and services without using government backed currency like Euros or Dollars. Each new Bitcoin is generated by powerful computers using a mathematical process called mining. Bittercoin’s stated ambition is to be “the worst miner ever”. This fully functional miner connects to the blockchain, but works so slowly that it extends the time needed to produce a bitcoin to almost an eternity. The paper accumulating around the machine makes visible the amount of calculation required, and, more importantly, the natural resources wasted in the process.
Blood, Sweat and Tears
Tarah Rhoda (Brooklyn, NY)
“Blood, sweat and tears" is a visceral trope used to stress our utmost will and grinding dedication. These corporeal liquid currencies are the cost of hustling; we unanimously expend them in all we do. As one’s body navigates the resistance of the physiological and psychological terrains, it intermittently sheds these rich substances that are crucial to the biological systems that sustain us. In order to memorialize this process, samples were collected from the artist’s body and recasted back into the teardrop form using a molecular gastronomy technique called spherification. The droplets of blood, sweat, and tears are contained in large glass vessel and only become animated when the viewer makes contact with the salt switch, which closes the electrical circuit and breathes life back into the vessel.
Lynn Cazabon (Baltimore, MD)
Ecomimesis explores the theme of hustle by drawing attention to its evolutionary underpinnings as a strategy for survival. It brings the word hustle, which we commonly think of as describing human behavior, to the world of plants, and highlights the evolutionary connection between human and non-human species. The particular plant species featured, Erigeron canadensis, better known as horseweed, is an annual native plant common in the urban environment throughout many parts of the U.S. While most people think of horseweed as a nuisance, it was specifically chosen for its adaptability to the stresses of living in human-crafted landscapes, and its ability to out-compete other plant species. Within most cities, such plants are generally considered the “background” for human activity: a largely undifferentiated expanse of green. Ecomimesis moves this otherwise ignored plant to the foreground, using virtual reality tools to explore and portray the ways that plants respond to and thrive in the highly challenging environments in which they find themselves. Ecomimesis has been customized for the HUSTLE exhibition with the virtual space mirroring the physical details of Science Gallery Lab Detroit, so that as viewers don the Oculus headset they will see over a dozen plants emerging in a virtual and slightly idealized version of the space in which they are standing.
Nida Abdullah, Zach Kaiser (E. Lansing, MI), & Scott Swarthout (Mountain View, California)
Who decides which predictions are made real? Maybe it should be: what determines which predictions become real? Nowadays people are read by machines, scanned by machines, predicted by machines. Is it so unlikely that the predictions that become reality will come more and more from computers, rather than people? For speculative designers, who imagine the alternatives of futures, there is a competition around whose image of the future is most provocative. In this version of speculative design, humans don't determine which predictions are made reality, they implement a determination made by predictive analytical systems, one expressed in terms often not even understandable to humans. This is the dystopian thrust of speculative design. Everything Speculative produces predictions of the future, and asks visitors to interpret its predictions in the context of their everyday lives. The exhibit encourages visitors to develop alternative notions of the future that could emerge from collaboration with computers. Visitor responses influence the kinds of futures the system predicts, and how they evolve over the course of the show.
Anna Paukova (Moscow, Russia)
Eye Werk draws on the concept of informational capitalism, and looks at how a big portion of our modern labor market is experienced through the lens of attention, cognition, and the digital screen. The hustle of locating information through a range of digital channels, information flows, and distractions is so ubiquitous nowadays that it often goes unnoticed or unconsidered. In an effort to visualize this intense process of “gaze,” Paukova recorded her eye movements over the course of her daily work routine at her laptop. Intrigued with the shifting nature of attention in this age of information overload, the gaze becomes the most important way many of us connect to the world.
FeVer [the daily fray]
Sarah Ellen Lundy (Leitrim, Ireland)
FeVer [the daily fray] is footage of a container of super-worms and their repetitious struggle in vain. Their motion is constant, prompting us to think of a busy urban center, and the “fever” of modern life that comes along with it. The futility of their effort is a metaphor for the ‘rat-race’ that so many people are forced to participate in, and gives us cause to examine notions of social mobility, personal freedom, and the barriers that exist to those things in our society. Through their movements, the worms become personified and mimic a metropolis in flux, a microcosm of a society tripping over itself in its haste.
Benjamin Grosser (Urbana, IL)
From “likes” on Facebook or Instagram to retweets or followers on Twitter, our lives are quantified and measured on a daily basis. Social media interfaces are designed to focus our attention on these metrics. The result is that we often care more about how many “likes” we get rather than who liked it, or about how much someone shared our photo rather than who saw it. Get More provokes us to question the effects of these numbers from a new perspective, testing just how little information is required for us to feel compelled to make one number go higher. This network-connected physical installation displays a single visible metric and a website address. The interaction is simple: visits to http://getmore.io increase the number displayed. But while anyone anywhere can visit the website, only those in front of the installation can see its current state or watch the numbers go up. Is this simple counter enough to compel our interaction? What about our friends on social media? Share a photo of the number, tell your friends how to make it increase, and see if they also want to Get More.
Anna Dumitriu (Brighton, England)
At a time when complex scientific discoveries are being made almost every day, and when the news stories we read compete to scare us the most, we are more at risk than ever of being hustled into buying into the latest “cure.” Be it a microbiome transplant from an isolated Amazonian tribe, or an unlicensed stem cell treatment, we can be blinded by pseudoscience and media hype about the speed and success of biotechnology. In response to this, and based on her research into the past and future of biotechnology, Anna Dumitriu has developed a powerful range of Hypersymbiotics™ that offer solutions for society’s ills, from her ‘patent’ Creativity Pills containing an actual extract of M. tuberculosis DNA for those at risk of losing their jobs to Artificial Intelligence, to her CRISPR edited E. coli patches that can repair the existential threat of antibiotic resistance.
Power Plants: Industry 4.0 for Trees
Jonathon Keats (San Francisco, CA)
Our planet is rapidly changing. Technology is becoming increasingly advanced and ever more pervasive, while global warming threatens to disrupt the favorable weather conditions that have sustained human civilization for millennia. While many workplace initiatives focus on retooling the human labor force, Power Plants: Industry 4.0 for Trees proposes to broaden the scope, imagining a way for other species to find a niche in the hothouse ecology of global capitalism. As trees and other flora are threatened by climate phenomena such as desertification, how might their plight be addressed through economic means? Outfitted with photovoltaic cells that capture some of the sunlight bombarding their leaves, and convert the light into electricity, these ‘power plants’ hustle to survive by selling excess energy to humans and buying bottled water with the proceeds.
Ottonie von Roeder (Leipzig, Germany)
The Post-Labouratory is an alternate way of thinking about the rapid automation of labor, and the resulting cultural crisis. It aims to liberate us from the idea of the necessity of labor, and supports us in discovering our true desires. With the engineering help of the artist and Science Gallery mediators, Post-Labouratory offers participants the possibility to abolish their job by developing a robot that does their labor for them. Through the abolition of their labor, the participants can explore a post-labor future. During individual sessions, the post-labor companions assist participants in reconsidering their desires. Automation is not something that is going away, so as a society, we need to ask ourselves what this new relationship will look like. How do we retool a society that may no longer require humans to work 40 hours a day, five days a week?
Conor McGarrigle (Dublin, Ireland)
#RiseandGrind is a social media data project that scrapes Twitter for the text of posts with the hashtag #RiseandGrind, a perennially popular hashtag that represents the spirit of the hustle from fitness and technological innovation, to getting rich. #RiseandGrind spells it out with advice, motivation and naked ambition. The project consists of a neon sign of the hashtag that draws upon the realtime output of the hashtags #RiseandGrind and #Hustle and makes physical the ephemeral motivation and self-promotion of Twitter. This Twitter output will be used to train a supervised machine learning algorithm over the duration of the exhibition. This neural network will learn to speak English using these hashtags and Tweet from @RiseandGrind_ML in ways that should go from nonsensical in the beginning to indistinguishable from actual tweets by humans by the end of this exhibition. Audiences can interact with the work and assist in the training process by tweeting with the project hashtag #RiseandGrindSGLD. The algorithm is designed to produce the ultimate formula for success in the self-starting economy of the grind based on what it learns from Twitter.
Matt Kenyon (Providence, Rhode Island)
What goes up must come down. These words describe not so much a scientific truth, but rather a common generalization. This notion can be applied to a variety of things—from a ball thrown into the air to a stock market. Neither can continue to rise forever, and all good things must come to an end. Right? The perceptual structures of the human brain enable individuals to see the world around them as stable, even though the sensory information may be incomplete and rapidly varying. Some of these perceptual structures are highly susceptible to manipulation. Seeing is not believing. Especially when the refresh rate of our reality hides the truth about our macabre fossil fuel faith. All around us people simultaneously hope and fear that our material abundance may never come to an end.
Gal Nissim & Leslie Ruckman (New York, NY)
SurveillAnts is an interactive, biological installation that explores the unseen world of ants. Tracing the movements of living harvester ants, the artists reveal emergent patterns and interactions, inviting the audience to contemplate the relationship between the individual and the collective, and between emergent systems at different scales—from the micro to the macro. While the results of these patterns are up for interpretation, visual correlations can be drawn between the ants’ paths and the pattern structure of neurons at a micro scale, or the way galaxies organize at a macro scale. The project aims to provoke the audience's curiosity about non-human life and touches on themes of emergent intelligence and biological algorithms.
Love Motel for Insects: Science Gallery Lab Detroit Variation
Brandon Ballengée (Baton Rouge, LA)
Insects are one of the least understood and underappreciated groups of animals, yet the majority of our food crops rely on insect pollination and countless ecosystems would collapse in their absence. The recent demise in bee and Monarch populations have attracted public attention, but even still, how many of us have taken the time to look closely at these remarkable creatures? We need bugs, and it is time we learn to appreciate these tiny marvels of evolution and heroes of ecosystems. Ballengée uses UV black lights to attract local arthropods to create a temporary Love Motel for Insects. Here, insects can congregate unharmed, and be identified, drawn, discussed, and given the appreciation they deserve.
Samuel Setenyi (Budapest, Hungary)
Hustle is a word that is visceral as much as it is cultural. How is the word hustle defined and understood in different historical, social, and cultural contexts? In Hungarian, there is no word for 'hustle’, but the attitude of overcoming difficulties no matter what exists in all cultures. Translate Hustle surveys the various translations, interpretations and associations of this word in a number of languages from around the world. This work is a part of a greater documentary project by the Hungary-based XORXOR Studio.
Gáspár Hajdu (Budapest, Hungary)
As the “gig economy” becomes a larger and larger portion of the global workforce, Virtual Hustle explores this 21st century shift in our working lives. This dystopian setup imagines a dim future where the last jobs that could be done by humans are crowdsourced by algorithms and computers. The installation aims to show the real people working behind the scenes and screens by drawing a personal profile of them. Visitors earn money through the Worker terminal by performing simple tasks (which are similar to ones found on existing online marketplaces). Through the collaborative effort of the visitors, the money earned can be spent on the Requester terminal to ask a personal question from a real life worker. If a worker answers the question, their profile is added to the Workers tab on both terminals. By examining how these technological advancements not only change our relation to labor, but also how that labor is valued, Virtual Hustle asks us to think carefully about how these technologies are changing our lives, and to whose benefit. This work is a project by the Hungary-based XORXOR Studio.