UP Projects, London, UK | Website
UP Projects presents 576 Tears by Zach Blas, curated for This is Public Space, UP Projects’ digital commissioning programme.
576 Tears is an experiment in offering emotional tears to an imagined artificial intelligence god.
This new commission invites audiences to explore religious weeping, a pious method of communicating with god and the divine, and asks what might an AI god learn from collecting human tears.
Bringing together research on Silicon Valley spirituality, the ways in which religion influences understandings and representations of AI, and the extractive qualities of AI as a technology and industry, 576 Tears broadly considers what tears might communicate, symbolise, express, and teach in an era that fantastically imbues artificial intelligence with godly power.
The commission features a machine learning-generated video that is created in real-time from a dataset of 576 computer graphics images of a crying eye, which span six emotional states detectable by AI emotion recognition software. These six emotions are anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise.
Zach Blas, Artist:
“I cried a lot this year and last. Like many others, the pandemic brought loss and grief into my life. I would often see tears on my face reflected back on the glossy surfaces of my phone and computer. During this time, I was researching religious and spiritual depictions of AI. In particular, I was taken with popular representations of AI as a god-like entity capable of inflicting judgment and granting bodily transcendence. It’s easy enough to find representations of AI like this in blockbuster films, but I also noticed this in memes of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam fresco, in which god is replaced with an AI robot, and also The Way of the Future, a Silicon Valley church founded upon a coming AI god. I began to wonder, how might such an AI god receive tears? Does this AI god extract tears of sadness from exploited, underpaid workers as they label images for AI systems to further develop? Does the AI god collect tears of ecstatic joy from Silicon Valley elites as they strive to bring about the singularity, leaving their bodies behind through technological transcendence? Does the AI god gather tears of fear from those subjected to predatory AI applications like predictive policing? Does this AI god aggregate tears of anger from those who have lost their jobs to AI automation? When an AI god consumes tears of anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise, it also learns how to cry. But what do the tears of an AI god communicate and symbolise? If humans may weep to gods, then for whom or what does an AI god’s tears fall?”
The commission’s title 576 Tears is derived from the 1966 pop song “96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians and also relates to the six emotions that AI can recognise. By multiplying 96 tears by these six emotions, Blas reaches 576 tears.
The AI god featured in 576 Tears offers participants the option to scan their face and be categorised into one of the six detectable emotions. Based on how a face’s emotion is parsed, the AI god will select an image of one tear from its ever-evolving database and overlay this with an aphorism, prophecy, or prediction.
The commission culminates in an ever-growing archive of tears collected from participants and is underpinned by a musical score composed with an AI neural network trained on the sounds of crying and the aforementioned song “96 Tears” by ? And The Mysterians.
A captivating teaser trailer is now available to view on the UP Projects website and social media. The new work will be officially presented online for free on UP Projects’ website (www.upprojects.com) or via https://576tears.ai on 16 May 2022.