Transformations of the Human and LA Review of Books Partner to Investigate the Ramifications of Work From Home Conditions Brought About by COVID-19 on Culture Production

Tui Shaub

Remote Intervention: A Los Angeles Review of Books Symposium in Partnership with the Transformations of the Human Program at the Berggruen Institute

In “Remote Intervention,” the Transformations of the Human (ToftH) program partnered with the Los Angeles Review of Books to invite LA-based artists, curators, and cultural workers to reimagine the role of artists and cultural workers given the current conditions of remote life.

Over the long safer-at-home months of 2020, the world has been in suspense and its cultural touchpoints have been thrust into the digital domain. What could transpire and what could be lost when cultural production must construe a wholly digitized practice and how might the experience transform conceptions of the human when life is mediated on screen.

Co-edited and introduced by Berggruen Senior Researcher Mashinka Firunts Hakopian, the dossier includes essays from Hakopian (Updating the Human Algorithm), ToftH Artist Fellow Nancy Baker Cahill (Embracing the Radical Uncertainty of Part-Machines), ToftH Artist Fellow Rob Reynolds (Teaching Artists in a Pandemic),  ToftH Director Tobias Rees (Life Lived On Screen: Philosophical, Poetic and Political Observations), and ToftH Associate Director Tui Shaub (Everyday Worlding).

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.