Transformations of the Human (ToftH): Fall Recap

Throughout the summer and fall of 2019, the Berggruen Institute Transformations of the Human (ToftH) Program focused on building new partnerships and fellowships for its global AI work whilst the Program’s artist fellows flourished on the international art scene allowing TofTH ideas to take center stage in dialogue about contemporary issues.

• ToftH has announced a new partnership and grant with the Diverse Intelligences Initiative of the Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF), to generously support the work of Berggruen Institute research fellows in the field of AI. Conversations with TWCF President Andrew Serazin and Principal Advisor Pranab Das have resulted in ongoing explorations of research in both AI and biotechnologies.

• A dynamic series of events around the philosophical and artistic investigation of AI and biotechnology will be presented with the Serpentine Galleries in London, co-curated by Lucia Pietroiusti and Kay Watson and the ToftH team. Stay tuned for more information.

Transformations of the Human Director Tobias Rees and Berggruen Institute VP of Programs Nils Gilman participate in a working group with industry leaders organized by the Rockefeller Foundation.

• Transformations of the Human Director, Tobias Rees, was chosen as a Rockefeller Foundation Resident to take part in the Foundation’s “A Month of AI” at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center on Lake Como. While there, Rees participated along with Berggruen Institute VP of Programs Nils Gilman in working group meetings organized by the Rockefeller Foundation and Element AI with industry leaders, UN and EU officials, and government representatives.

• The ToftH program expanded its work with Chief Scientist at Facebook AI Research (FAIR) and co-winner of the 2019 Turing Award, Yann LeCun, and secured a new collaboration with Google X and their project lead of robotics, Hans Peter Brondmo. Further details are forthcoming.

• Artist fellows Anicka Yi and Kahlil Joseph were among a select group of American artists chosen to participate in the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019.

• Artist fellow Agnieszka Kurant won the $100,000 Frontier Art Prize and participated in the 18th Istanbul Art Biennial, curated by Nicolas Bourriaud, member of a ToftH working group co-organized with Eoin Brodie from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. As one of the opening talks at the Istanbul Biennial, Rees and Kurant presented their work and its symbiotic relationship.

Berggruen Artist Fellow Anicka Yi, ToftH Director Tobias Rees, and Hayward Gallery Director/2019 Venice Biennale Curator Ralph Rugoff with members of the Gaia Art Foundation and the Berggruen Institute ToftH program at the Royal College of Art.

• Together with artist fellow Anicka Yi, Tobias Rees gave a talk on dialogue & collaboration between artistic and scientific communities at the Royal College of Art in London, organized by the Gaia Art Foundation and moderated by Ralph Rugoff, curator of the 2019 Venice Biennale.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.