Embodied Futures


Thursday, April 21 @ USC // Friday, April 22 @ Berggruen Institute // #WWLB

Embodied Futures

Embodied Futures invites participants to imagine novel forms of life, mind, and being through artistic and intellectual provocations on April 22.

Beginning at 1 p.m., together we will experience the launch of five artworks commissioned by the Berggruen Institute. We asked these artists: How does your work inflect how we think about “the human” in relation to alternative “embodiments” such as machines, AIs, plants, animals, the planet, and possible alien life forms in the cosmos? Later in the afternoon, we will take provocations generated by the morning’s panels and the art premieres in small breakout groups that will sketch futures worlds, and lively entities that might dwell there, in 2049.

Ecologies of Becoming-With (Bradbury Edition), Sougwen Chung. Sougwen will debut a collaborative drawing performance with a multi-robotic system using spatialized sound and biofeedback. Live experiments with the sonification of mark-making adds a new dimension to the D.O.U.G. (Drawing Operations Unit Generation) practice, asking: what new modes of embodiment can be explored when humans create with responsive machines?

CORPUS, Nancy Baker Cahill. CORPUS imagines a future of blended, embodied entanglement between human, machine, and microbiome in the form of a towering AR “symborg” in the atrium of the Bradbury Building. CORPUS will emerge as a series of constituent metallic and organic particulate elements rendered to resemble an ever-shifting blend of pulsing binary and DNA code.

Voice Gems, REEPS 100. REEPS 100 has been using AI and emerging technologies to push his voice and create new forms of vocal expressions. His work is rooted in the idea that the future of design is generative, and that the most valuable works allow us to observe our most human fundamentals. REEPS 100 will present a new “voice gem” — a data visualization of human voice.

Sounding Life, Brian Cantrell. This immersive sonic experience stages a journey to an alien solar system. The speculative journey into outer space imagines how humans would scan for biosignatures — chemical signs of life — on other planets in the distant future. The artwork proposes the use of ears, rather than eyes, as the primary sense modality for probing the universe for life and environments suitable for life.

Altruism, ARSWAIN. This four-movement original composition proposes that if humans are to truly expand our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. The pieces use granular synthesis, biofeedback, algorithmic modulation — and even an AI co-composer — to generate novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations. For more information click here.

Sougwen Chung

Artist & Researcher, Founder of Studio Scilicet

Sougwen愫君Chung is a Chinese-Canadian artist and (re)searcher based in London. Chung’s work explores the mark-made-by-hand and the mark-made-by-machine as an approach to understanding the dynamics of humans and systems. Chung is a former research fellow at MIT’s Media Lab and a pioneer in the field of human-machine collaboration. 

nancy baker cahill

New Media Artist & alumna Berggruen Institute Fellow

Nancy Baker Cahill is a new media artist examining power, selfhood, and embodied consciousness through drawing and shared immersive space. Founder and Artistic Director of 4th Wall, a free Augmented Reality (AR) art platform exploring resistance and inclusive creative expression, her geolocated AR installations earned profiles in the New York Times and Frieze Magazine. Her work has internationally exhibited at museums and galleries, including The Hermitage, The Buk-Seoul Museum of Art (SEMA), and Honor Fraser Gallery. She received the 2021 Williams College Bicentennial Medal of Honor and a 2022 C.O.L.A. Master Artist Fellowship.

Brian Cantrell

Media designer, researcher, and creative technologist

Brian Cantrell (Ph.D. Media Arts and Practice, USC School of Cinematic Arts) is a designer, researcher, and technologist working in sound design and interactive audio, as well as design research and visual development. His work explores the role of the experiential in science communication, particularly experimental arts approaches to data visualization and sonification, as well as worldbuilding and systems-oriented design methodologies, computational aesthetics, and phenomenology of perception. Cantrell works with USC’s Worldbuilding Media Lab on interdisciplinary projects including World in a Cell, which seeks to build a data-driven, immersive model of the structure and function of the pancreatic beta cell.


Composer and Musician for Film and Media

ARSWAIN aka Freddy Avis is a composer and musician based in Los Angeles. He worked under Emmy-nominated composer James S. Levine (Glee, American Horror Story, Nip Tuck) at Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions. Avis is credited on Why Women Kill, Tiger King, Shark Tank, and Dateline, among others. He contributed synth & percussion work on 8-time Oscar-nominated composer James Newton Howard’s score for Disney’s Jungle Cruise. Freddy earned his BA in Music and Political Science at Stanford University, where he pitched for the baseball team. In 2012 he was drafted by the Washington Nationals.


Artist, Founder, and Technologist

REEPS 100 aka Harry Yeff is a London Born artist, founder and technologist, utilizing an almost inhuman vocal range to drive his performative digital and physical artworks. In 2018 Yeff completed his third artist residency and guest lecturer role at Harvard University and is currently part of the Experiments in Art and Technology program at Bell Labs. Yeff produces work as a response to an ongoing investigation into the evolution of the human voice, art, and science. He has exhibited internationally, including the Museum of Art and Design in New York, the Tate Britain, SXSW, Miami Art Basel, and Sundance film festival.

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.

RAVE (IRCAM 2021) https://github.com/acids-ircam/RAVE