Alum Trevor Paglen Teams Up with Kronos Quartet for Sight Machine

28 Nov, 2018

Alum Trevor Paglen Teams Up with Kronos Quartet for Sight Machine

Artist and alum Trevor Paglen and the ever-inventive Kronos Quartet present Sight Machine, a multimedia performance putting a string quartet under the gaze of machine-vision and artificial intelligence.

The performance was held in front of 400 humans and a dozen artificial intelligence algorithms. The musicians played their music while a screen above them showed the audience the algorithms that the computers were seeing.

The software turns this abstracted information back into images, which are then projected onto the screen behind the performers, showing us how machines and their algorithms perceive what we are seeing.

The machine utilizes algorithims from consumer-grade facial detection to advanced surveillance systems and even guided missiles.

The dozen or so cameras watching Kronos Quartet sent live video from the performance to a rack of computers, which uses off-the-shelf artificial intelligence algorithms to create the eerie visuals. The algorithms are the same ones used in our phones to help us take better selfies, ones used by self-driving cars to avoid obstacles, and ones used by law enforcement and weapons guidance. So while the results on screen were sometimes beautiful, or even funny, there was an undercurrent of horror.

Paglen's work allowed viewers and listeners to question and see how computers do, and to reexamine the human relationship to technology—the phones in our pockets, and the eyes in the sky, and everything in between.

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