Anna Weichselbraun

Anna Weichselbraun

Anthropologist, 2022-2023 Berggruen Fellow


Anna Weichselbraun is an anthropologist of knowledge, technology, and governance. She is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of European Ethnology at the University of Vienna. She holds a Ph.D. in sociocultural and linguistic anthropology from the University of Chicago, and has previously worked at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. Her book manuscript on the knowledge practices of nuclear safeguards inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency is under review with Cornell University Press.

At Berggruen, Anna will examine the vibrant efforts of Web3 software engineers, designers, and artists to build radically inclusive and participatory online communities and alternative economies. These efforts to reimagine the future of social and political life mediated by decentralized digital ledger technologies, she proposes, might offer productive insights for conceptualizing and designing institutional forms that scale to problems of long-term planetary governance.

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.