Agnieszka Kurant

In conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist

Air Rights, 2009–ongoing Photo: Mathias Völzke Courtesy: Kunstverein Hannover

Conversions, 2019–ongoing Photo: Randy Dodson Courtesy: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Conversions, 2019–ongoing Photo: Randy Dodson Courtesy: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Semiotic Life, 2022, KV Hannover Photo: Mathias Völzke Courtesy: Kunstverein Hannover

HUO: The Centre Pompidou is one of the very first institutions dedicated to modern and contemporary art to acquire a group of works dealing with the relations between artistic creation and blockchain, including NFTs. One of these is your Expanded NFT Sentimentite (2022). Can you explain the evolution of this project?

AK: The idea behind Sentimentite is a speculation about what is going to be a mineral-currency of the future that could replace gold and other currencies. Will it be lithium which is used in batteries, some extraterrestrial mineral, or something else? Sentimentite is both digital and material, investigating the relationship between digital capitalism and geology, and between digital and carbon footprints. It is currently estimated that there are up to two hundred anthropogenic geological forms that have emerged, such as plastiglomerate, trinitite, and many others. I have been using geology as a form of fiction writing, and I created new minerals or new compositions of matter on a molecular level in my earlier works, such as Post-Fordite and Still Life, so it’s a continuation of that research. On the other hand, Sentimentite draws on my longstanding interest in the dematerialization of money and labor in the contemporary economy, which I touched upon with Currency Converter (2016), when I initiated a collection of informal objects that are neither coins nor banknotes, yet carriers of value, used as money from antiquity through to today: from shells to salt slabs used to pay Roman soldiers (hence the word salary), sperm whale teeth (tabua) used as a medium of exchange in Fiji, and human skulls once used in Borneo, to tobacco used in prisons, or colorful Western candy wrappers exchanged as a currency at primary schools in communist Poland. In the United States over the past couple of years, Tide detergent has been used by petty criminals as a street currency to buy drugs, and during the crisis in Argentina, people used Tootsie Rolls as money. There are constantly new objects emerging as currencies during wars, migrations and crises. Today it is our emotions and feelings, expressed as digital footprints, that became the new currency in platform capitalism and are exploited by big corporations as well as some governments, and that was the point of departure for Sentimentite.
Sentimentite was born as a collaboration with the platform Zien and with a computational social scientist, with whom we used an AI sentiment analysis algorithm to harvest global sentiment data from millions of Twitter and Reddit posts related to one hundred seismic events in recent history, such as the Fukushima disaster, the invasion of Ukraine, Brexit, Occupy Wall Street movement, Curiosity Rover landing on Mars, or the death of David Bowie, and the online opinion dynamics evoked by these impactful events. Drawing upon these online discussions, we managed to develop a “geological language” or geological impact of events on striation, stratification, pigmentation, emergence of craters and so on, which generated the shapes of one hundred digital fragments of this evolving, speculative mineral. Then, at Kunstgiesserei St.Gallen, we produced a physical new mineral by collecting everything that has been used or exchanged as a currency since the beginning of human civilization, any objects that became informal currencies used in the so-called “shadow economies.” We pulverized them and mixed them together to create a new mineral. All redeemed fragments of Sentimentite are cast in this new material. As you mentioned, the Centre Pompidou acquired the NFT together with a sculpture as one of the first NFTs in their collection.

HUO: Which projects are you currently working on?

AK: I am currently preparing a solo exhibition at Mudam Luxembourg, opening in June 2024, and a commission around the subject of energy and alchemical transmutation, which will open at Bourse de Commerce in Paris in October 2024, within the framework of the exhibition around the legacy of Arte Povera, curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. I also worked on a conference, which I co-curated with Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev at Castello di Rivoli around the subject of energy. Next March I will exhibit my works in the Biennale of Sydney and I am doing a commission for an exhibition at the LUMA Foundation in Arles, curated by Jean de Loisy. Right now I am finishing my monograph book Collective Intelligence, co-edited by Stefanie Hessler and Jenny Jaskey, which will be published by Sternberg Press / MIT Press in October this year. My solo show at Kunsthal Gent opened in late September. I am also starting to work on a new film.

HUO: You will also present a project at the Centre Pompidou next spring, won’t you?

AK: Yes. As part of the three-year collaboration between the Centre Pompidou and KADIST around AI, I will present a project pivoting around plural, polyphonic subjectivity and multispecies intelligence. I have developed a cybernetic organism, which was recently featured in my solo exhibition Uncomputables at Kunstverein Hannover and it will also be shown in my solo exhibition at Mudam Luxembourg next year. The point of departure is my longtime exploration of the phenomenon of collective intelligence, a polyphony of agencies, as well as human-non-human, biological-digital-geological assemblages. The work is entitled Alien Internet (2023). It is a shape-shifting speculative life-form created with ferrofluid—a material invented for the NASA in 1963, with properties of more than one state of matter and the ability to transform. I developed a system to control the ferrofluid in an electromagnetic field, based on migration and communications data from thousands of animals and other organisms worldwide, from whales, birds and elephants to sponges. Together with scientists and engineers from MIT and other collaborators I’m collecting data from many scientific institutes on hundreds of thousands of non-human organisms around the globe that are currently surveilled with various digital technologies. I realized that there are new ways in which people started to interact with wild nature—“animal internet,” as it has been described, is a new model for understanding how digital technologies and datafication are changing our relationships with more-than-human life-forms. Another important phenomenon that influenced my project is the “wood wide web”: the interconnectivity between trees, which use complex networks of fungi and roots to communicate and share information about their environment. So Alien Internet is a future life-form emerging out of this forest of more-than-human intelligences combined with technology.

HUO: You mentioned several collaborations. I am aware you have a close friendship with Shumon Basar, who has a vivid ability of conceiving neologisms for describing contemporary phenomena. How do you think he would call your works? I do remember that in relation to digital works, their presence and permanence, he once said they release a “new aura.” Do you agree with this definition? Do your works have a new aura?

AK: That’s an interesting question. I can say that my works embody a polyphonic agency aiming at undermining individualism. They are the expression of a plural subjectivity, and as a result, they can be experienced as something hybrid or uncanny.
We have never been individual. So without abandoning the ideology of individualism we’re not going to solve any global problems that humanity is currently collectively facing. Thinking about this, I started asking myself in which direction we are currently evolving as a species and how art and cultural production could evolve in the future if we abandon the individualism paradigm. I have been trying to embody in an artwork “agential realism” theorized by Karen Barad, where forms emerge out of a multitude of agencies and intra-actions. And on the other hand, I’ve been inspired by Bernard Stiegler and Yuk Hui and their understanding of technical and digital objects, which can be constantly changed and updated not only by their creators but also by the crowds of their users.
Most forms we are surrounded by—tools, signs, currencies, languages, memes, but also minerals, microbial colonies or weather phenomena—are products of collective intelligence and emerge out of millions of agents. So I wondered how this plural agency could be embodied in an artwork.
I started to experiment with works in which I create a relationship between changes happening in the world and physical changes in the artwork. I create dynamic biological-geological-digital assemblages in constant flux, crowdsourced to multitudes of humans and more-than-humans, including machines. They often evolve and emulate life, like living organisms. In works such as A.A.I., Chemical Garden, and Conversions, I create systems, networks or conditions for forms to emerge or crystalize.

HUO: Digital objects have this ability to mutate to the creator’s but also to the viewer’s eyes. This brings us to the idea of the artwork as a living organism. Artists of the previous generation, such as Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno, have been working extensively on the idea of the exhibition as a living organism, as a complex, dynamic system with feedback loops. Your work has been inspired by these artists but at the same time you have your own way of making it, entailing alchemic mutations for instance. When did your works become “living organisms”?

AK: My background is in philosophy, but I have always been very interested in science. I have never formally studied art.
My grandparents got to know Stanisław Lem. So when I was in my 20s, long before I became an artist, I managed to meet Lem. His work and that meeting influenced me a lot. Especially his futurological ideas around technology and transformations of the human and the concept of a sentient ocean-organism.
After my studies in Poland, I became interested in the exhibition as a medium and in curating, and I got a scholarship to study it in London. When I was at Goldsmiths, I had the great pleasure to co-edit (with Mathieu Copeland) an anthology of texts on Anna Sanders Films called The In-Between (2003). Thus, I found myself very close to the artistic practice of the generation of artists you are referring to. They really entrusted me with something special. I have specifically developed a long-term dialogue and friendship with Pierre Huyghe, who has been a wonderful supporter of my work and career over the years. I really owe him a lot. His work has been a very important point of reference for mine. Another point of reference, which is equally important, is Hito Steyerl, whom I invited to a conference, which I co-organized in Poland in 2011. Steyerl’s critical stance was one of the most important elements in the development of my practice. I can say that my research situates somewhere halfway between these two points of departure, drawing on complex systems entailing technology, exploitation, and extractivism, but without losing the philosophical and poetic perspective and the material and sculptural aspects of the work.
In the early years of my career, I worked in a transdisciplinary way with my close friend and architect Aleksandra Wasilkowska. During that time I was in a dialogue with many complexity scientists including Andrzej Nowak, whom I met in Poland, Nassim Taleb and Luc Steels. Nowak and Taleb developed theories of extremely rare events or black swans in complex systems which shaped my early works. With Aleksandra we did a project in the Polish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2010. We reflected together on the idea of rewiring the crowd and creating unexpected collective phenomena, black swans, porosities and portable holes in the system, to go beyond the logic of overcontrolled urban reality. My research then kept on expanding over the years through my dialogues or collaborations with multiple scientists and thinkers from different fields, including philosophers Franco “Bifo” Berardi and Catherine Malabou, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, geneticist and immunologist Alexander Tarakhovsky, sociologist Jan Sowa, entomologist Paul Bardunias, computer scientists at MIT prof. John Guttag and Boris Katz, synthetic biologist Drew Endy, anthropologists Michael Taussig, Stefan Helmreich, David Graeber and Tobias Rees, paleoanthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger, astrophysicist and cosmologist Malcolm Fairbairn, computational social scientists Justin Lane and LeRon Shults, science writer Philip Ball, but also film editors like Walter Murch, and typographers like Radim Peško and Will Holder. We had conversations around collective intelligence, the labor of the multitude, the plasticity of the social brain, and the evolution of knowledge, technology, design and storytelling. What started to fascinate me was the fact that objects of knowledge constantly evolve. And today this evolution is accelerated to such a degree that we have no time to process it. By the time we develop new tools and methodologies to understand these transformations, the world is already in a very different place. And I wanted to develop a new way of producing forms, which would reflect on that problem. I also started to understand intelligence or consciousness as a mindspace, a space of possible minds with many dimensions, in which we could situate entities that, to a greater or lesser degree, display various capacities or properties such as learning, memory, consciousness. This space may also include territory beyond the organism, where intelligence emerges in relation with other species. I started investigating non-mammal consciousness of “other minds” and various forms of chimeric, distributed cognition.
Bearing in mind the research of biologists such as Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela and cyberneticians such as Gordon Pask and Stafford Beer, and the way they addressed complex systems, I began to think about the economy of total cybernetics within which we now live, and to investigate the evolution of culture and the relationship between predicting the future and how this is impacting the actual future.

Chemical Garden, 2023 (detail) Photo: Mathias Völzke Courtesy: Kunstverein Hannover

A.A.I., 2015 Courtesy: the artist

Erroryzm, 2021 Photo: Anna Zagrodzka Courtesy: Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź

Sentimentite, 2022 Photo: Benjamin Roberts, image courtesy of Center for Craft Courtesy: the artist and Zien

HUO: Do you mean how we speak about the future can actually impact on how the future is going to unfold?

AK: Yes. What fascinates and scares me is how the contemporary economy treats the future as speculative real estate. I recently experimented with this subject in Semiotic Life, where I entangled together a 75-year-old living bonsai tree with a form, which is an AI prediction of how this bonsai species will (or will not) evolve in the future. But now this predicted future tree form is limiting and shaping the current growth of the living tree that grows around it. The future and present are always entangled. The evolution of a living species is by design impossible to predict because evolution is based on mutations: errors in copying the DNA structure. And these errors are caused by very complex, uncomputable factors and events such as cosmic radiation. These “uncomputables” in living systems, in geology, in society and in technology are the focus of many of my works.
I have started experimenting with creating systems that would produce forms of collective intelligence, which is a phenomenon that cannot be fully computed. The neoliberal idea of everything being computable, everything being predictable and controllable is a dystopia. There are so many agents and factors impossible to predict: the result of an election or how successful a meme is going to be. In the middle of the paranoia about prediction and computability, I wanted to create forms that are in perpetual evolution, in constant flux, impossible to predict and emerging out of a complex system of agencies. They bear a resemblance to organisms because they evolve. Pretty much everything is evolving and undergoing perpetual metamorphosis. Even minerals are co-evolving with life so they share some traits with organisms. And so I started to think about different ways in which producing forms could be based on creating a complex system in which out of a multitude of agencies some forms will emerge and crystalize. I have been working around these questions more concretely since 2013, when, together with entomologists in laboratories at the University of Florida, I employed an entirely ‘unaware’ worker society of millions of termite specimens to produce mounds. But these hybrid forms, oscillating between nature and culture, were still static, like a snapshot from an evolution of a form. I then decided to experiment with forms that could evolve and react to various shifting parameters of ecosystems or societies. Crowd Crystal (2021-2022), which was my solo exhibition at Castello di Rivoli, curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, consisted of evolving installations such as Chemical Garden, resulting from the collective agency of thousands or millions of people, molecules or microorganisms. These artworks investigated the impact of collective intelligence phenomena in nature and culture—from bacteria and other single-celled organisms to artificial intelligence. The works physically reacted to changes in society.

HUO: The idea of alchemical transmutation of matter seems to reside here.

AK: Absolutely. I was trying to embody the perpetual transformation, which has always accompanied the evolution of life and the expanding universe. Since the beginning of civilization, we have been trying to cause transformations or transmutations of matter. We as societies are working on constant transformation of materials, now also organic matter, and entire species. The process I use is quite often related to the loss of control over a form because I never know how it is going to evolve. Sometimes the results can be surprising, maybe not always as satisfying as expected but I withdraw my agency. The liquid crystal paintings Conversions (2019-ongoing), which I have also presented at Castello di Rivoli, employ data mining and the use of AI sentiment analysis algorithms to harvest the global dynamics of emotions of protesters expressing ideas about changing the world in their social media feeds. These digital footprints of feelings, in aggregate, cause constant changes in the appearance of the artworks, displaying the effects of collective intelligence in contemporary algorithmic and technological society. I wanted to connect changes in inorganic matter with changes in the world. So I chose liquid crystals, which are used in digital technologies like LCD screens. Throughout history, alchemists and then scientists have been looking at various materials, and different forms of inorganic matter, some of which seemed to be alive, because, under the microscope, their molecules were shape-shifting. Liquid crystals, when they were first observed, appeared to be living because they undergo so-called phase transitions, which are changes between the states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. Liquid crystals have really changed our vision of matter by shattering the three-state paradigm. In phase transitions there is always a critical mass, a certain tipping point when something suddenly changes. I wanted to connect changes in society such as when a social movement or a revolution emerges, or a social consensus or dissensus arises, with the physical transformations of matter, particularly painting: a painting as a living organism, not a finished fixed form, but something that is a collective, perpetually evolving thermal footprint. Taking my cue from these considerations, I have connected millions of tweets posted by members of social movements about changing the world to produce a complex organism at a planetary scale.

HUO: We met for the first time exactly twenty years ago, in 2003. And at that time, you were a curator. I think it is very interesting that you talk a bit about these beginnings, from curation into art practice. You started to exhibit relatively early. The first solo exhibition of yours I saw was Snow Black (2005), but you had already exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo in the collective exhibition Code Unknown (2004). How did you decide to actually transition from the curatorial to the artistic practice? What’s the first work you were happy with? When did you find your language? And what do you feel is the number one in your catalogue raisonné?

AK: When I first met you as my external advisor, at your office at Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, while I was studying Creative Curating at Goldsmiths College, it was a very inspiring moment in my life. Your work for me was at the threshold of when curating becomes a medium, an artform or an autonomous organism, like an open artwork. I was thinking about transgressing curating into something else and I was looking at different possible models. In Poland—where I was born and raised—curating was for many years not recognized as a separate medium, which could be the subject of study, yet it really interested me because I saw a complexity of agencies in this activity and in the exhibition form. While drafting exhibitions, I was made aware they were living their own life, as if they were artworks in themselves. I actually ended up in trouble a few times as I was working with many artists and some of them were not necessarily happy about mutations that their works were undergoing in my exhibitions, or they simply were not interested in losing control of their works. During my residency as a curator at Palais de Tokyo in 2003-2004, Nicolas Bourriaud told me that maybe curating was just one of many formats I could express my research and ideas with, and encouraged me towards making artworks. Christian Bernard reiterated this suggestion in 2005. While he was running MAMCO Genève, he invited me to develop L’exposition qui n’existe pas, a parasitic exhibition in the form of my collaborations with several artists, where the works intersected with existing art pieces in the museum’s collection. When I moved to New York for a curatorial residency at ISCP in 2004, I presented a group exhibition, which was only visible in the sunlight or in the evening with UV light. The exhibition was essentially appearing and disappearing. Then the gallerist Yvon Lambert—at the time I had absolutely no idea who he was—came and gave me his card, proposing me to exhibit this group exhibition as an artwork or a solo exhibition. “Listen, I have never made an artwork in my life,” I said to him, “and I am not even sure if I’m an artist.” He said, “Well, this is for me to decide. I think that you are an artist. Let’s show this work and see how it develops further.” Many people over time were telling me that what I was doing was maybe something more than curating. But I was resisting. My parents were electrical engineers, and I was brought up to be humble, so I never believed I had something unique to say. I thought I was more a person who was going to enable others to speak, to create a polyphony of voices. For me, curating was that. It took me a few more years to understand what was happening with my practice.
The first time I created something I felt was a proper artwork of my own was in 2007, when I developed Future Anterior—an issue of the New York Times from the future, based on clairvoyants’ predictions, written by several journalist and writer friends, and printed on newsprint with pigments, which would appear and disappear, depending on the weather. In 2020, the work was meant to change its status as some of the predictions for that year would come true and some would become fiction. In 2008, I did a commission for Frieze Projects in London, upon the invitation of Neville Wakefield. On that occasion, I created Ready Unmade, for which I hired a bird trainer to train three parrots to bark like dogs, creating an illusion of communication of one animal species speaking the language of another species. It was both a reflection on mutations and transformations of nature, the hybridization of nature-cultures, and a project related to my interest in artificial languages. I have a close connection with languages and their mutations, as my great-grandfather uncle was Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof, who created Esperanto. Here I was again, dealing with a complex system of languages but as an artist this time.

HUO: Living organisms are the common denominator in your works. Since the beginning, you have been studying forms of non-human collective intelligences. As you have worked with AI for many years, how do you see the current moment and the future? Are you concerned?

AK: The “takeover of AI” is just one of many distractions that neoliberal ideology is inventing, deflecting the conversation from the main problems of contemporaneity, such as radical inequality. In fact, the whole idea of singularity and anthropomorphizing of AI, as well as the concern about super sentient AI, is just an extension of individualism. It’s just referring to intelligence as something individual and the ideology of individualism is of course such a failed, terrible project that has already brought us species extinction, societal collapse, and climate crisis. AI is just a planetary-scale project of exploitation of everybody who is using digital technologies and leaving digital footprints. This is how AI has been conceived, through the exploitation of data. That’s how these algorithms are trained. Meanwhile, AI means also the exploitation of workers extracting metals used in computers at mines in the Global South. So the fear of creativity being taken over from artists by AI is a distraction from the real problems of exploitation of collective intelligence and the labor of the multitude.
On the other hand, most creativity, including creativity in nature, understood as the emergence of new forms, is often the result of an error, which cannot be predicted or programmed. Therefore, this panic around AI is similar to the fear of other new tools or artforms such as photography or cinema in the late 19th and the early 20th century. I’m hoping that this conversation about the takeover of AI over creativity is going to be dismissed. The discourse should rather pivot around collaboration to solve the problems we are facing as humanity.

HUO: Alexis Pauline Gumbs says that we now have the opportunity as a species to fully be in touch with each other through technology, to unlearn and to relearn our own patterns of thinking and to storytell in a way that allows us to be in communion with our environment, as opposed to a dominating colonialist separation from the environment. The idea of being in communion with the environment is also very present in your work. Can you talk about the way you connect with other humans and more-than-humans? Following Gumbs’ assumption, we can actually adopt technology not to separate us, but to be in communion with each other and other species.

AK: Yeah. This concept is at the center of many of my works such as A.A.I., where I am channeling the collective intelligence of termite colonies; The End of Signature, where I fuse together the social capital of members of social movements, communities or groups of people supporting one cause; or Adjacent Possible, where I trained an AI on drawings created by Paleolithic humans to produce other possible signs that could have emerged and could have shaped humanity in a parallel version of history. And now, in Alien Internet (2023), I’m using technology to connect different species into one superorganism. The planet Earth as an ecosystem is such a collective organism, as James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis would have it. The aggregation of data currently collected from millions of animals worldwide can help us to predict tsunamis, earthquakes, and floods—because animals often operate as ‘collective barometers’ or unconventional computers predicting various planetary phenomena. The animal internet is like an algorithm which works better than a Geiger counter. Today we know of forms of more-than-human technology developed and detectable in minuscule beings such as bacteria, which are capable of breaking down plastics or other toxins, or slime molds solving a maze despite having no brain and no nervous system. We see these non-humans interacting with e-waste in unthinkable ways for us. I am confident a different type of intelligence is emerging, and I’m interested in anticipating that. Nonetheless, sadly, currently the internet of animals is mostly about the colonization of wildlife—e.g., humans installing cameras in jungles and watching wild tigers or turtles in their local natural habitat. Is there anything that could be redeemed from this process of progressive colonization? It certainly creates hybrid augmented realities where unaware animals continue their wild lives but they simultaneously have Facebook or IG pages with millions of followers who watch them live on webcams or TikTok. That produces a very uncanny digital-biological-social assemblage.

HUO: As we began with an investigation of the present to then move back to your initial projects, I would like to end this conversation with a take on the future. Martha Rosler says the future always flies in under the radar. As you investigate the issues of exploitation, visibility, and invisibility in a wider sense, embracing Bernard Stiegler’s analysis of the interplay between the future of labor and creativity, how do you see the future of work?

AK: The question of labor is strictly interwoven with contemporary extractivism, based on the exploitation of crowds, since crowds became important assets in digital capitalism. The contemporary global economy is based on conversions of crowd dynamics and social energy into information and capital, which is what I am exploring in works such as Conversions. Nowadays we have a different relationship with work than we had in Fordism, where it was about physical bodies of workers in the factory. Post-Fordism was about the exploitation of invisible, immaterial and affective labor, and now it’s all about the entire humanity becoming a giant factory of data production and exploitation, in which we all became workers. It is based on aggregation and large numbers. All parameters of commonality—such as exchange, sharing, and participation—are being harvested. People just playing, enjoying themselves, posting things or liking things—this is an updated form of labor or “playbor,” the digital late form of post-Fordism. These considerations led me to Post-Fordite (2019-2023), a series made of pieces of material known as “Fordite” or “Detroit agate.” It is a hybrid, quasi-geological formation, created through the accumulation and fossilization of automotive paint on production lines at now-defunct car factories around the globe. It is a geology of shifting taste for different car colors, but also a geology of traces of collectively performed labor at factories throughout a century. A lot of my works are precisely exploring the notion of invisible labor. In A.A.I. (2014), I outsourced my work to desert termites, to address the unconscious work we are all constantly performing, bringing profits to corporations such as Meta. And in The End of Signature—which had different iterations, including one on the façade of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and most recently as the permanent commission for MIT List Visual Arts Center at Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA—I thought about the ineffable value of social capital and I fused together, using AI, the signatures of thousands of people into one collective signature-identity. All these projects draw attention to the labor of the multitude, which is behind everything produced or created in society. At the beginning my focus was the extraction of profits from the labor of the multitude in surveillance capitalism. And now I’m working also with the question of redistribution of capital that digital technologies can enable. A few years ago, in collaboration with my husband, the artist and writer John Menick, we created Production Line (2016), where we asked people on the Amazon Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform to draw lines with a computer mouse. It doesn’t look like a computer drawing but rather like a collectively hand-drawn line. We remember the IP addresses of workers and when the works sell the profits are shared with all the contributors. I have realized similar projects at MIT titled Aggregated Ghost (2020), and Assembly Line (2017), using an AI algorithm to transform 10,000 crowdsourced selfies of Amazon Mechanical Turk workers into a collective self-portrait of this new emerging working class. It is quite a contradiction the fact that nowadays there are a lot of artists, who make brilliant works about exploitation, but it’s to some degree a form of exploitation in itself as some of the capital generated by the sales of these works should in my opinion be redistributed. So I plan to create more projects based on redistribution of capital as a form, as part of the artwork and as a way to question the art market.
My film Cutaways (2013) was about the invisible labor of the multitude and Hollywood economy, and as I’m starting to work on my next film, about the future of labor and cinema, we witness the strike of Hollywood actors against the industry and the use of their AI-generated avatars and voices, which might make actors’ labor obsolete. Cinema of the future will be very different and that’s what I am currently exploring.

AGNIESZKA KURANT (b. 1978, Łódź, Poland) is a conceptual artist investigating collective and nonhuman intelligences, the future of labor, and exploitations within surveillance capitalism. Kurant is the recipient of the 2020 LACMA A+T Award and the 2019 Frontier Art Prize. Her solo exhibitions include: Castello di Rivoli (2021-22); Hannover Kunstverein (2023); and SculptureCenter (2013). She presented commissions at the Guggenheim Museum (2015) and MIT List Visual Arts Center (2022). Her works were featured in collective exhibitions at: MoMA; Centre Pompidou; Palais de Tokyo; the Istanbul Biennial; Guggenheim Bilbao; SFMOMA; Kunsthalle Wien; Witte de With; Whitechapel Art Gallery; Performa Biennial; ZKM Karlsruhe; and the MOCA Toronto, among others. Kurant was an Artist Fellow at the Berggruen Institute (2019-21), a visiting artist at MIT CAST (2018-2019), and held a fellowship at the Smithsonian Institute (2018).

HANS ULRICH OBRIST (b. 1968, Zurich) is Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries, London. Prior to this, he was the Curator of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Since his first show World Soup (The Kitchen Show) in 1991, he has curated more than three hundred shows.