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Ava Zevop: The Rise and Fail of Algorithmic Cultures

15. 9.–12. 11. 2023
Ravnikar Gallery Space, Ljubljana, Slovenia

All photos by Marijo Zupanov / Ravnikar Gallery Space
Visual and intermedia artist Ava Zevop examines synthetic media as a new mode of cultural production, while questioning the insertion of computation into the fields of epistemology and the everyday. The Rise and Fail of Algorithmic Cultures is an interweaving of the artist's past projects and research that foregrounds the influence of different (mainly Western) cultural contexts on the construction of databases, the role of algorithms in generating images, and the resulting successes and failures of artificial intelligence.

The sculptures in the exhibition are generated using a machine learning model that draws on the art historical database ScanTheWorld, a database of three-dimensional scans of various artefacts. The objects on display in the basement room were generated in the process of learning, and therefore also reveal errors, while the two sculptures on display on the ground floor are from the generative space, when the learning process is supposed to have been completed. The duality of the sculptures' display thus reveals the course of such processes, which follow the path of existing and established ways of including and excluding in art collections, while at the same time displaying a completely abstract, alien logic inherent in the "reason" of the computational space itself.

The processes of generating images and text from different databases are also highlighted in Real-time and Noise. The cue for the work Real-time is the live action that the camera is capturing, which triggers the automated generation of text at first and a new image in the second step. There can thus be a lot of common ground between the action in space, the textual and the pictorial interpretation, but there can also be a reading that is foreign to the human gaze or a representation that does not match our expectations. The work Noise also represents a kind of communication, a chain of generation and retrieval of images collected in databases. The trigger here is a random arrangement of pixels (noise), which is read and reinterpreted in the next step as a generated image. In the third step, an existing visual is retrieved from the COCO database, which is expected to be the most similar to the previously generated one. COCO is one of the earlier and more widely used image recognition training databases, first created in 2014 (and regularly updated since), that includes images from earlier Internet, echoing its commercialisation and the widespread use of digital cameras. The search in Noise seems to have taken place on a formal, abstract level, as the similarities between the generated and found visuals are formal rather than semantic. However, it is precisely what escapes the semantic level of interpretation that interests the artist most in the process described, since it is clear that beneath the layer of what is visible and what is subject to human understanding, meaning is made in a different way, alien to us.
The Rise and Fail of Algorithmic Cultures highlights the ambivalence of machine learning models and their dependence on older epistemologies and categorisations, as well as on computational logic itself. The works in the exhibition are linked by the idea of the materialisation of a computational space, a space of learning, errors, interpretations, visualisations, and the creation of a new logic of automated processes that we can attempt to understand, but which also escapes us, or that we imagine we understand more than we actually do.

The works Noise and Real-Time were produced by Ljudmila, Art and Science Laboratory, as part of the project In the Beginning, There Was Static… In the End, There Was the Webbed Wide World (2022). The 3D-printed sculpture models were created as part of the project Webbed Wide Worlds (2023), produced by Ljudmila, Art and Science Laboratory.
Thank you to Jakopič Gallery and Museum for Design and Architecture MAO, as well as to  Benjamin Fele, and Elias Heuninck (Formlab, School of Art Ghent).

The exhibition cycle ETC.: Fever Dream is supported by the City of Ljubljana and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia.

Etc. is an annual magazine, dedicated to showcasing current artistic production from the Baltic to the Balkans.
Based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, each issue is dedicated to a relevant topic in art and life. Founded to promote emerging artists, its goal is to initiate a dialogue, inspire collaborations, and challenge set views.