M O U T H P I E C E
October 1 - December 11, 2022
...people’s voices are more revelatory than their eyes or the looks on their faces [...]: the vocalised sound goes from inside to inside, links two existences without further mediation.
We are delighted to present four extraordinary artists who explore the complexities of the human condition through fragmented bodies and the human voice. The voice is a generic human practice with aesthetic, physiological, cultural, historical, and psychological texture and meaning. This is a portraiture of ideas, containing allegorical works with mouths that voice and communicate human behaviours, beliefs and fears. Singing, speaking, humming and whispering, they are delivered to us through a world of technology.
A pioneer of video and installation art, Tony Oursler’s glass-headed, AI b0ts have been inoculated with miniature video and sound technologies. Described as ‘Metaphors for alienated, isolated modern individuals in a technology-driven culture”, the bOts question our belief in the future of technology & AI, whispering, questioning and predicting dystopian futures.
Mellors & Nissinen present us with the absurd character Bad Mantra, from their grand political parody, The Aalto Natives (Venice Biennale). Attached to the wall of a ubiquitous recording studio, a mass of pink-felt, muppet heads, without a body, attempt a group hum while trying to play musical instruments together. Trapped on the wall, their tangled robotic arms reach out to attempt contact...and harmony.
Diemut Strebe gives us The Prayer, a disembodied, singing & speaking, rubber mouth with voice box; animated by artificial intelligence, powered by an algorithm that draws from world religious texts. The work was built at MIT around Diemut's research question “How would a divine epiphany appear to an artificial intelligence?”.
Through unconventional and pioneering practice the artists in Mouthpiece habitually address a world of systems, narratives and beliefs; through humour and parody or through scientific reasoning. Mediated through an aesthetics and physiology of the voice, we recognize this assemblage of capabilities, flaws, worries and efforts as poignant, uplifting and all too human
AI machine / installation
Aluminium frame silicone motors plaster monitor printer computerized system using neuronal machine learning software.AI free text-generation for speech and singing AI text to speech - generation in real time audio / mouth movement synchronizationAI
The Prayer explores ideas around the human relationship with the supernatural and belief, through artificial intelligence. The robotic mouth and vocal system is animated by artificial intelligence, powered by an algorithm that draws from world religious texts.
Strebe’s intention was to mimic the act of speaking in a stripped-down way, with the guiding question of the project being: How can we connect to the divine or supernatural using machine learning? How would a divine epiphany appear to an artificial intelligence? ‘ Strebe, along with a number of scientists at MIT, implemented a deep neural language model that is able to infer word meanings, grammar rules, and syntax from a database of texts and prayers, in order to synthesize original readings which are spoken aloud. These readings are also synchronized to the installation’s lip movements to make the whole process as natural as possible.
The prayer generates original prayers vocally articulated by Amazon Polly's Kendra voice, and sings religious lyrics to the Divine. The opera was realized thanks to the support of Regina Barzilay, Tianxao Shen, Enrico Santus, Bill and Will Sturgeon, Brian Kane, Matthew Azevedo and many others
As noted by Strebe’s website, the database of prayers and texts include religions from all over the world: The current list includes: Bible old and new Testament (Christian), Bhagavad Gita (Hinduism), Rig Veda of Hinduism, Koran (Islam), The Thirteen Classics of Confucianism, The Zhuang Zhou of Taoism, The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism The Talmud (Rabbinic Judaism), The Book of Mormon, (Mormons),Mayan Book of the Dead, The Popol Vuh and other prayer collections.
Technical Description; In order to voice prayers and personal contemplations, the machine uses AI-based free-text generation and AI text-to-speech generation tools by applying Natural Language Processing techniques to a specific text genre It performs a potentially never-ending chain of religious routines and devotional attempts for communication through a self-learning software. The Prayer using NLP tools of the OpenAI GPT2 model, fine-tuned on scared texts at MIT CSAIL, as well as AI based text to speech conversion in real time, explores the difference between humans and AI machines in the debate about mind and matter.
Based in Boston, Strebe works at the intersection of art and science to address contemporary issues related to philosophy, history and literature. She is interested in the crossover between art and science, living / biological material, installations, scientific experimental set ups or other technological tools, as well as photography and video. Current projects include close cooperation with scientists in the fields of synthetic biology, human and plant genetics, tissue engineering, quantum and astrophysics, chemical engineering and other fields of scientific research. Strebe has an MA, Visual Art, HBK, Germany. Her work has been presented worldwide at The Mori Art Museum/Tokyo, ZKM, Centre Pompidou, New York Stock Exchange, Ron Feldman Gallery, MIT, NASA, Industrial Biennale Labin, Gallery Eye of Gyre/ Tokyo, among others.
Special thanks to Diemut Strebe
The production is a collaboration with Regina Barzilay, Tianxiao Shen, Enrico Santus. all MIT CSAIL Amazon Polly, Bill and Will Sturgeon, Elchanan Mossel, MIT, Stefan Strauss, Chris Fitch, Brian Kane. Keith Welsh, Webster University, Matthew Azevedo.
Special thanks from the Artist to Hideyuki Sawada Waseda University and Thanh Vo, The University of Danang whose speech machine for the hearing impaired has been a point of departure for the design of the outer features of the artwork.
Installation with Sound; felt animatronic puppets microphones, cables, players, keyboards, guitars, amps, robotics, programming
Mellors & Nissinen represented Finland at the 2017 Venice Biennale with their mock-epic, political parody and dark parody The Aalto Natives from which came the character Bad Mantras. The pair create rich narrative worlds filled with absurd irreverent video, puppets and creatures, while constructing complex narratives and sculptures. They use the barriers of language and non-musicality as a vehicle to express ideas. Bad Mantra is a dark satire of contemporary western politics and cultural assumption; a world of dysfunction and absurd inversion, reflecting ideas around belief and vulnerability in connection with politics & power. The work contains 16 humming puppet heads, across two rooms, with multiple, animatronic arms, who attempt to play instruments together. Bad Mantra emerged after a group of young people returned home, infected with new ideas. The artists reprogram the work each time it is installed. The humor and playful visual tone of Mellors and Nissinen’s work responds to the moral complexity of intense political and environmental issues. https://www.mattsgallery.org/artists/nathaniel-mellors
Erkka Nissinen and Nathanial Mellors create narrative worlds filled with a rich accumulation of absurdist video, puppets and creatures. They construct complex narratives and sculptures using handmade puppets and homemade film sets to tell creation myths and uncover the flimsy narratives on which national identities are built. Mellors is often inspired by the writings of French satirist François Rabelais (c.1494-1553). Both consider the barriers of language and non-musicality as a vehicle to express ideas. The two began working together during a residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam.
Nathaniel Mellors has exhibited in numerous international solo and group exhibitions, New Museum, NYC, Mellors represented Finland with Erkka Nissinen at the Venice Biennale 2017. The Box, LA, Stigter van Doesburg, Amsterdam, Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin, art:concept, Paris, The View, Switzerland, Hammer Museum, LA, Stedelijk Museum, Matt’s Gallery, London, and others. Mellors is represented by The Box Los Angeles, Los Angeles Monitor Video & Contemporary Art. Rome, Stigter van Doesburg Amsterdam & Matt's Gallery London. He teaches in the School of Art Architecture & Design at Leeds Beckett University and the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten Amsterdam. He lives and works in LA, Amsterdam, London & Yorkshire.
Erkka Nissinen studied in The Slade School of Fine Art in London and gained MFA degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, Finland in 2001. His works have been exhibited internationally, for example in Ellen de Bruijne Project Space in Amsterdam, Smart Projects Space in Amsterdam, Helsinki Art Museum’s Kluuvi Gallery and 1646 in Den Haag. During 2011 Rotterdam Art Fair Nissinen won the acclaimed Illy Prize. In 2013, he was awarded with the AVEK Prize for media art. Nissinen represented Finland with Nathaniel Mellors at the Venice Biennale 2017. Kiasma Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki (2018, with Nathaniel Mellors); Ellen de Bruijne Projects, Amsterdam (2018, with Mellors); Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Amstelveen, (2018, with Mellors); The Finnish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
Thanks to Nathaniel Mellors & Erkka Nissinen
Matt's Gallery, London
With Special thanks to Nathaniel Mellor Studio LA
AI bOt series
Miniature video & sound technologies(LED screens/audio/video), blown glass, acrylic, resin, painted wrapping, cables, programming.
The AI BOTS are figurative sculptures with blown glass heads. Inserted into the heads are miniature flat screens, exposed computer circuitry and a variety of materials figuratively arranged. Bodies are often composed of low-tech materials, wrapped around a stick form, or glass/metal limbs. The chimerical bots relate to Oursler's ongoing interest in our day to day interactions with technology and question the intelligence of A.I.-systems. A.I. “b0ts” are constructed with mixed media and elements of hand blown glass. Thematically these works relate to Oursler's ongoing interest in our daily interactions with ever omnipresent technology; the works are generated from human form and somewhat smaller than adult humans. They have soft whispering voices from tiny screens roughly where eyes and a mouth might be on a face. The disjointed images show the eyes and mouths of actors moving to scripted words that are….“in the end is all my voice, but I try to channel other people to keep the variety and veracity,”
His “Bots,” challenge the “notion of artificial intelligence, our position in relation to what’s going to happen when we start offloading our consciousness and our relationship to bots.” “I’m in a much more poetic vein with the ‘Bots,’ ” he said. “The idea of connecting and putting your faith in artificial intelligence is fascinating to me.” He works with several people whose faces and/or voices become part of his artwork. He scripts the words, having the “Bots” say “tiny poetic and provocative statements. Some are more related to overt themes that relate to technology, and some are like a psych test.” “There’s so much magical thinking around technology. The idea is that you’re going to be taken care of by Google or Facebook, but you’re not being taken care of, it might be the opposite. . . . A certain percentage of people are nullified by technology. I’d like to see that turned around through creativity. Art is for people, it activates; it’s not a means of capitalizing on them.” Mr. Oursler also sees a lighter side to the way technology will affect us. “We’re going to understand more what it is to be human,” he said. “At the same time, there’s a lot of responsibility that we have to then take for that technology, to understand it and to protect ourselves, our kids, our politics and creative drive.” ‘We are looking out through them. So the sense is we’re being identified but by our own making. These [works] are kind of revealing an invisible mask, a new mask that we have made, which we are kind of peering out from and seeing ourselves basically.’ (Derived from a selection of articles/interviews’)
Renowned pioneer of video art and art installation, Oursler draws inspiration from a wide range of pop cultural phenomena including telecommunications, narrative evolution, conspiracy, social media, facial recognition, mysticism and environmental concerns. Deeply rooted in a conceptual framework, Tony Oursler conjures multimedia and immersive experiences which combine traditional art making tools with new technologies. Oursler is known for his work with moving images, installation and projection. He draws inspiration from wide ranging pop cultural phenomena including telecommunications, narrative evolution, conspiracy, social media, facial recognition, mysticism and environmental concerns. His works often take the form of a “palimpsest,” layering possible futures with the recent past while focusing on present day issues. In recent years Oursler has used his extensive archive in conjunction with installations to blur the boundaries between art, fact and belief systems. Since 2000 he has produced many public works involving light and projection onto architecture and existing landscape features such as water, trees and smoke and sculptural objects such as cast bronze and stone. Oursler has developed an ever-evolving multimedia and audio-visual practice utilizing projections, computers, video screens, sculptures and optical devices, which might take form as large scale installations, intimate digital effigies or bots, ethereal talking automatons or immersive and sometimes cacophonous environments. Referencing a fully networked, digitally assisted future of image and identity production while harking back to the phantasmagoria, camera obscura and psychedelia, Oursler is keenly aware of the viewer as a participant in his work. As a pioneer of video art in early 1970s California and New York, Oursler developed a unique fusion of poetic free-association, stream of consciousness, dramaturgy and radical formal experimentation, employing painting, animation, montage and live action: “My early idea of what could be art for my generation was an exploded TV”. From performative and lo-fi beginnings to his high tech environments of today, he holds an enduring fascination with the overlapping worlds of popular and subcultural activities and belief systems. Today, Oursler believes art can be “practiced by all and is a unifying transformative force.”
Tony Oursler lives and works in New York, NY, USA. Born in 1957, he graduated from the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA, USA and collaborated on early works with artists such as Mike Kelley. His museum exhibitions include Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan (2021); Musée d’arts de Nantes, Nantes, France (2020); Guild Hall, East Hampton, NY (2019); Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA (2017); Magasin III Museum & Foundation for Contemporary Art, Stockholm, Sweden (2016); Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-On-Hudson, NY, USA (2016); Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA (2016); LUMA Westbau, Zurich, Switzerland (2015); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2014); Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2014); Pinchuk Art Centre, Kiev, Ukraine (2013); ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark (2012); Helsinki City Art Museum, Finland (2005); Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA (2005); Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2001); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA (2000) and Kunstverein Hannover, Germany (1998). In addition to participating in prestigious group exhibitions such as documenta VIII and IX, Kassel, Germany (1987 and 1992), Oursler’s work is included in many public collections worldwide, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, USA; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA; National Museum of Osaka, Japan; Tate Collection, London, UK; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands and ZMK/Center for Art & Media, Karlsruhe, Germany. The Public Art Fund will debut a new, site-specific project by Oursler on the Hudson River in October 2018.
Special thanks to Tony Oursler, NYC
Olo, 2019, Loaned courtesy of Lisson Gallery
2§ba, 2019 Courtesy Tony Oursler and Lehmann Maupin New York, Hong Kong, Seoul and London
!Nk, 2019 Courtesy Tony Oursler and Lehmann Maupin New York, Hong Kong, Seoul and London
Snake Head, 2019, Courtesy of Baldwin Gallery