"Meeting the Machine in the Middle"

In collaboration with Carrie Sijia Wang, video sculpture “Meeting the Machine in the Middle” explores the concept of “alienated relationship” through the two artists' 15-minute performance as well as the installation layout.

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In the 15-minute video, the two artists sat next to each other and performed a “small talk” by sending chat messages, which were read out loud using the pre-trained Lyerbird voice avatars of themselves. Artists looked down to their laptops, which were outside the shot, when reading and replying the chat message, and looked into the camera with no facial expression when the other was replying. No vocal communication could be seen in the video.

The recorded footage was edited to separate the two artists into different screens. The footage then were played on pairs of 27” external screens, iPads and phones with different ways of display:

Two big screens were set to face each other; two iPads were placed on a customized support plate at a 90-degree angle, with their bottom parts touching each other; one iPad and one iPhone were placed side by side. All devices are looping the 15-minute performance, with one clear soundtrack playing inside the room.

“Meeting the Machine in the Middle” explores how human relationship are presented and interpreted when technologies that alienate us from our natural selves involve: Human voices are mixed with machine learning to become voice avatars, vocal communication is replaced with fingers tapping keyboard, eye contact could be “reproduced” by placing two devices facing each other. Also, different sizes of the equipment set an implication of the “power difference” among human relationships.