Honor Fraser is pleased to present SMALL V01CE, curated by Jesse Damiani. An opening reception will be held Saturday January 13 from 6pm – 8pm
“[C]ultural activity began and remains deeply embedded in feeling. The favorable and unfavorable interplay of feeling and reason must be acknowledged if we are to understand the conflicts and contradictions of the human condition.”
—Antonio Damasio, The Strange Order of Things
The hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The basketball player hits the buzzer-beating fadeaway in pure flow. The sudden sensation that you’re being watched. The artist looks at the work and a small voice inside them tells them it’s done—without understanding why.
Human evolution is often presented as a story of expanding intelligence. Indeed, our faculties for learning, recognizing patterns, symbolic thought, and coordinating these insights have been integral factors in what we have become. It follows in this line of thinking that humans organize our lives according to logic and rationality, but studies reveal that instinct, intuition, and feelings are underlying drivers of our choices and experience of the world. In fact, according to some neuroscientists, these biological algorithms predate intelligence, a genetic heritage linking us back billions of years to our bacterial ancestors. In other words, our understanding of the very nature of intelligence is likely based on incomplete ideas and flawed assumptions.
Now, a new form of intelligence is capturing the public imagination: artificial intelligence. In specific, a category called “generative AI,” which refers to a number of deep learning techniques capable of producing outputs like images, videos, and audio—forms we often associate with art and creativity. Machine intelligence is already weaving into creative making and tooling, a trend that appears to be accelerating. The explosion in capability among adjacent technologies like autonomous vehicles (drones), processors (GPUs), and sensing systems (“smart” devices) ensures that the volume of information exchanged between virtual and physical worlds will continue to multiply, offering ever more data for machine learning models to use to learn and improve, faster and faster.
It’s easy to see the potential these tools have to change how we do many things, and some have even begun to wonder if we’ve created new sentient beings. But few of these conversations address how this new form of intelligence interacts with instinct, intuition, and feelings, and what this will mean for both humans and machines through the lens of evolution. After all, evolution never progresses toward a specific end destination—it merely adapts to changing circumstances. As human intelligence has changed, so have the roles of instinct and intuition, going far beyond simply helping keep us alive to informing the development of storytelling and science, math and mysticism, poetry and philosophy.
If we want to a clearer view of how these new technologies might interact with the evolution of life on Earth, we have to approach these ideas interrogatively. Thus, SMALL V01CE is an exhibition full of questions. What does the rise of large generative models mean for human instinct, intuition, and feelings? Will these tools enhance or dampen humanity’s innate instinct, as well as the processes by which intuition is refined? Will machines be able to observe, quantify, and classify forms of human instinct and intuition in ways we currently cannot? In not operating as fully rational agents, individual people often defy exact prediction—would more refined models of intuition change that? We often herald creativity as a quintessentially human endeavor—if its role is changing, what will this mean for the creative process and the production of art? And what might such pursuits mean for the development of new generative engines? Is it possible that machines will develop their own forms of instinct and intuition? If they do, would we be able to recognize them? And what would that mean for the future of creative expression?
Underlying these questions are considerations around first principles: are instinct and intuition productive aspects of intelligence, or evolutionary byproducts human beings have exapted? Likewise, are instinct and intuition critical for the production of art? Would a future intelligence capable of creativity need them in order to produce meaningful art? How might machine intelligences interact with non-human biological entities—be they bacteria, plant, animal? And zooming further out: what does it mean that we are conducting this experiment on ourselves at a time when we are still grappling with legacies of colonialism and oppression, with belief systems that foreground competition, extraction, and aggression? Why are we subjecting ourselves to this experiment, putting ourselves at risk in unpredictable ways?
Such questions don’t currently have clear answers and maybe never will. SMALL V01CE invites leading artists whose work engages these questions—artists whose interactions with these technologies are rooted in unconventional modes of knowing and perceiving—to share their own hypotheses, questions, reflections, and portals.
Exhibiting artists: Memo Akten, Minne Atairu, Nolan Oswald Dennis, Lins Derry, Linda Dounia Rebeiz, Behnaz Farahi, Holly Herndon & Mat Dryhurst, Lauren Lee McCarthy, Sara Ludy, Parag K. Mital, New Mystics*, Alexander Reben, Landon Ross, Rachel Rossin, Caroline Sinders, Kira Xonorika, and Harry Yeff (Reeps One).
*New Mystics, organized by Alice Bucknell, features the work of Rebecca Allen, Zach Blas, Ian Cheng, CROSSLUCID, Patricia Domínguez, Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė, Sadia Pineda Hameed & Beau W Beakhouse, Joey Holder, Evan Ifekoya, Bones Tan Jones, Lawrence Lek, Haroon Mirza, Tabita Rezaire, Tai Shani, Himali Singh Soin, Jenna Sutela, Saya Woolfalk, and Zadie Xa.
Special thanks to exhibition contributors:
Sinziana Velicescu, Peter Wu+, SUPERCOLLIDER, and OpenAI