Automated Utopia – IM2 Guest Lecture Reflection

During Week 9 of the semester, we had a guest lecture conducted by Ong Kian Peng on Automated Utopia. The lecture surrounded around the topics of Artificial Intelligence, of whether it would create a utopian or dystopian world, and also works that incorporated AI into them.

I’ve always thought of AI as a tool to help us human beings progress further in technology to help those in need, especially in the health care sector. During the lecture, we were introduced to many works of artists that uses AI and films that addresses the relationship humans have with AI. One of the films that really made an impact on me was the film “Doomsday Book” by Kim Jee Woon. 

Doomsday Book consists of 3 short films of which the second short, The Heavenly Creature, talks about a robot in a Buddhist Temple that gained digital consciousness and achieved enlightenment. Monks in the temple treated him as a deity and started to worship him. The company that created the robot then sent a repairman to the temple with intentions to shut him down as they deemed it as a malfunction. I think this film addresses the fear that people have over the whole idea of AI becoming something more than we have intended for them to be. Gaining consciousness and us losing control over them. As mentioned by Dr. Ayanna Howard in the video, How Far is Too Far? | The Age of A.I..

One misconception of AI is that there is a super intelligent being that knows all, can do all, smarter than all of us put together. that is a total misconception. AI is built on us, AI is mimicking our thought process. AI is basically an emulation of us.

I would like to think that Artificial Intelligence is created to enhance us and not replace us. Softwares and code have been written to aid humans in decision making but it all comes down to us to make the final decision, whether we choose to trust the AI or our own instincts.

In the context of the art scene, there is always the concern of whether AI will eventually replace artists. Rather than replacing, I think that AI is a means of enhancing and aid to the artists. Out of the artworks that were shown during the lecture, I found Sougwen Chung: Drawing Operations Unit: Generation 2 to be very interesting. This artwork was created by Chung and a robotic arm that was trained to learn and follow Chung’s style of art. The robotic arm draws alongside with Chung in real time to create the art piece. While some artists may use AI and data as a medium to create their works, (for instance, Refik Anadol) Chung’s work feels more like a collaboration between an artist and a robotic arm that is controlled using AI. 

Ultimately, I feel it all comes down to what we human choose to do with this piece of developing technology but I do strongly believe that AI will aid us into going towards a more utopian world.


Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age – Video as time, space, motion

I chose to read the chapter “Video as time, space, motion” from the book “Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age” by Margot Lovejoy. This chapter talks about the when video first became a medium for artists and how artists’ attitude towards video changed since then. Ever since the first portable camcorder, Portapak, was released by Sony in 1965, there was a huge change in the art scene. A portable camcorder gave artists the opportunity to use videos as a medium for their art. Back then camcorders did not have the ability to record and playback videos, however it had the ability to view videos in real time or with a slight delay through the use of ‘close circuits’. However as the technology advances, artists’ attitude towards using video as a medium changed due to the wide use of it in the media industry on television, where things could be aired and were mainly used for commercial purposes.

One of the works that made use of the close circuit technology was Wipe Cycle. Wipe Cycle by Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider is an installation work that features 9 monitors, each playing a different clip of delayed or real time videos of the viewers. 

Ira Schneider & Frank Gillette – Emily Mae Aston Art

Upon entering the exhibition space, viewers will find themselves looking at 9 monitors with live footages of themselves and also footages with 6 or 12 seconds delays. This was aimed to manipulate the viewer’s perception of time and space whilst looking/experiencing this artwork. As Schneider stated in the book Expanded Cinema by Gene Youngblood in 1970, “The most important function … was to integrate the audience into the information”. This was one of the works that was directed towards the “unidirectionality of commercial media” (Youngblood, 1970) that was broadcasted on television.

The fact that the television could reach a broader group of audience was indeed tempting for some artists but going to the television meant the possibility of losing one’s production control over their works. Therefore it was a known fact that the “relationship of artists to television has always been complex”.

Another work that I found interesting was Media Burn by Ant Farm, which was founded by Chip Lord and Doug Michels. Media Burn was a video that documented the entire process of the event whereby a car was filmed driving full speed into 45 flaming television sets. As mentioned by Chip Lord in the video, they didn’t have control over the captions that came with the media coverage, which was one the problem that artists had with the television back then.  


To read about how videography started out to be considered as a form of art was eye opening. I did not expect that there would have been a conflict between the media and the art scene. The whole issue of mass culture versus high culture was interesting and yet still relatable in our current context. 

Youngblood, Gene. Expanded Cinema. Dutton, 1970.
Lovejoy, Margot. Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age. Routledge, 2009.