Frieze Los Angeles: The Iceberg and the Human

February 15, 2020

1:30pm Paramount Pictures Studio – Los Angeles, CA

Could icebergs be experimental sites for reformulating our vocabulary for thinking about ourselves and experiencing the world around us? As part of the new Berggruen Institute Transformations of the Human (ToftH) program – designed as a philosophical study and artistic exploration of the manifold ways in which AI, biotechnology, and climate change challenge our established conceptions of what it means to be human – artist Rob Reynolds discusses his work as part of a TofTH project cluster on icebergs and the human with philosopher and anthropologist Tobias Rees and founder of Oceans & Ice Lab David Sutherland.

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About the Speakers

David Sutherland
David Sutherland is the founder of Oceans & Ice Lab and a member of the ToftH project on icebergs and the human. He is a physical oceanographer who uses observations and numerical models to explore coastal and estuarine systems. In particular, he is focused on the dynamics of glacial fjords (e.g., SE Alaska, Greenland, Antarctic Peninsula) and Pacific Northwest estuaries and how humans interact with these environments. David is core faculty with the University of Oregon Environmental Studies Program. He has received numerous grants from the National Science Foundation, including a CAREER award, NASA, Oregon Sea Grant, and NOAA.

Tobias Rees
Tobias Rees is Founding Director of the Transformations of the Human program at the Berggruen Institute in Los Angeles; Reid Hoffman Professor at Parsons/the New School in New York; and a Fellow of the Canadian Institute For Advanced Research (CIFAR). He holds degrees in philosophy (Heidelberg/Germany); anthropology (Berkeley/USA); and neurobiology (Paris/France). Rees is a globally recognized expert on the history of thought – on how the categories that silently structure our ways of thinking and doing emerged and changed over time. He is interested in how such events reconfigure or render obsolete the categories of the human, of nature, and of technology. Alone and together with colleagues, Rees has sought to build new conceptual and institutional possibilities for rendering visible the philosophical, aesthetic, and political stakes of contemporary technology and science.

Rob Reynolds
Rob Reynolds is a Los Angeles based American artist and a current Berggruen Institute Artist Fellow. His recent one person exhibitions include Vanishing Point, LAXART, Los Angeles; Just Add Water, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County; Most Painted Mountain, Ochi Gallery, Ketchum, Idaho; and previously The Bohemian Disaster, Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco; and Imagine, Kenny Schacter/ROVE Contemporary, New York. Reynolds has exhibited widely in group exhibitions, including Gagosian Gallery, Brown University, and elsewhere. His work is in many private and public collections including LACMA, The RISD Museum, and Brown University. Reynolds currently serves on the faculty of Sierra Nevada College, and has taught and lectured at Harvard, USC, UCLA and Brown. A graduate of Brown University, Rob attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, previously studying at Cornell University, School of Art, Architecture and Planning as well as The School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

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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.