Since 2014, this artist-led digital programme at the Serpentine Galleries proposes critical and interdisciplinary perspectives on the role of emerging technologies. Challenging and reshaping the role that technology can play in our culture and society as part of the Serpentine's ongoing commitment to supporting new experiments in art and technology. The programme develops contemporary artworks with artists that focuses our attention on emerging technologies as a medium, a tool or a topic that can operate beyond the gallery walls.
Since 2018, the programme has been part of a sophisticated R&D platform that explores, interrogates and experiments with the most advanced technologies of our day, from artificial intelligence to blockchain - together with artists, the Serpentine seeks to chart a course that tells an alternative story of the role of technologies in our collective future on earth and beyond.
Hito Steyerl. Actual RealityOS Steyerl’s new project for the Serpentine Galleries considers power and inequality in society, mapping unequal wealth distribution in the communities surrounding the Serpentine which has been recorded as one of the most socially uneven areas in Europe.
Actual RealityOS charts real-life inequality through virtual means (augmented reality). Visitors to the Serpentine will view a warped simulacrum of the exterior of the physical building using data about wealth, social housing and austerity collected with local research partners. This form of data visualisation is designed to restore a social vision to an often-unseen stark class reality.
Jakob Kudsk Steensen. Catharsis and The Deep Listener Catharsis immerses audiences within a digital simulation of a re-imagined old-growth forest, a forest that has developed undisturbed over hundreds of years. Based on field work undertaken by Steensen and his primary collaborator Matt McCorkle, the work’s virtual ecosystem and synchronised audio comprise 3D textures and sounds gathered from several North American forests.
Set up as a single continuous shot that moves from the watery underground roots to the surveying viewpoint of the canopy, Catharsis draws on Steensen’s conception of ’slow media’ whereby digital technologies can foster attention to the natural world and create new narratives about our ecological futures. Catharsis becomes a digital portal, a simulated journey that offers audiences access to past and present natural environments, slowed down and up close.
An augmented reality app for mobile devices that offers an audio-visual ecological trail through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, to both see and hear five of London’s species: London plane trees, bats, parakeets, azure blue damselflies and reedbeds. The Deep Listener is the first Augmented Architecture commission, in collaboration with Google Arts 6 Culture and Sir David Adjaye OBE. These works demonstrate the Serpentine’s commitment to long-term engagement with artists and new experiments in art and technology that have included an augmented reality tool for visualising the UK’s extreme inequality by Hito Steyerl and a weather prediction model that correlates historic weather data with polling data from major political events such as Brexit by James Bridle.
Jenna Sutela. I Magma Is a machine oracle dreaming our collective futures. Drawing a line between histories of mysticism, psychedelia and technology, the work places an emphasis on altered states of consciousness and the creation of artificially intelligent ‘deep-dreaming’ computational systems that mimic the brain. Influenced by divinatory practices such as the I Ching, I Magma builds a bridge between these ancient systems of knowledge and our contemporary attempts to divine the future. Sutela’s ‘psychedelic technology’ is an app through which a machine oracle delivers daily divinations borne out of a growing network of users. The work consists of two elements: an application for mobile devices developed in collaboration with Memo Akten, Allison Parrish and Black Shuck, and a community of head-shaped lava lamps on display at Moderna Museet, Stockholm. The lava heads act as a "seed" in generating the app's visuals and language. Using live camera footage of the flowing lava in combination with the GPS locations of app users, it offers daily readings based on the collectively formed shapes. As each new additional user downloads the I Magma app, the network expands, contributing to a remoulding and shifting of our shared future.
Jakob Kudsk Steensen, The Deep Listener, 2019. AR Screenshot. Courtesy the artist. Serpentine Augmented Architecture in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture and Sir David Adjaye OBE
Jenna Sutela, I Magma & I Magma App, Co-commissioned by Moderna Museet and Serpentine Galleries, 2019. Photo: Prallan Allsten/Moderna Museet
Suzanne Treister, SURVIVOR (F)/BLACK HOLE ASI, 2016-19. Courtesy the artist, Annely Juda Fine Art, London and P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York
Ian Cheng, Bad Corgi, 2016. Image: courtesy of the artist
Ian Cheng, Bad Corgi, 2016. Image: courtesy of the artist
Susanne Treister. The Escapist BHST (Black Hole Spacetime) The Escapist BHST (Black Hole Spacetime) began with Treister’s research into the holographic principle that developed out of HFT The Gardener, another expansive project from 2014–15 where Treister tells the story of a high-frequency trader (HFT) who explores the psychoactive plants, and subsequent research undertaken at CERN as part of the COLLIDE award and residency. In Treister’s subsequent work, The Holographic Universe Theory of Art History, she proposes that the universe is a vast hologram and that artistic practices throughout human history have been unconscious attempts by artists to understand the holographic nature of our existence. This work provided the initial steps towards explorations of the inconceivable properties of black holes as a form of paranormal phenomenon and the beautiful journey through the possibilities of interdimensional time-travel, consciousness and the singularity.
In web AR The Escapist BHST (Black Hole Spacetime) is a navigation tool for interdimensional travel and the archive of The Escapist located in the Museum of Black Hole Spacetime somewhere in outer space. With a mobile device visit https://theescapist.serpentinegalleries.org to view in augmented reality. Upon entering the first Universe the user discovers eight portals in the sky. Each of these may be downloaded and set as desktop images or wallpapers on computer screens, tablets and phones. The Museum of Black Hole Spacetime floats between the eight portals allowing access to the second Universe. Inside the second Universe the sky clouds over with stars and a new set of portals appear. Here users can access the archive of the The Escapist which includes a comic, diagrams, paintings, watercolours. The Museum of Black Hole Spacetime enables the user to return to the first Universe.
Ian Cheng. Bad Corgi Bad Corgi is a new app by New York-based artist Ian Cheng whose influences draw on an education in Cognitive Science, a stint at George Lucas’s special effects company Industrial Light & Magic and a fascination with the dynamics of unpredictable systems. Using algorithmic modelling techniques commonly employed in the gaming industry, Cheng creates simulations in which virtual objects and characters are programmed with basic behaviours and then unleashed upon each other.
“I see my simulations as a kind of neurological gym,” says Cheng, “in which art becomes a means to deliberately exercise the feelings of confusion, anxiety and cognitive dissonance that can accompany life in a world of intense change and uncertainty.”
In the little world of Bad Corgi, the player is subjected to various stress conditions in which control of Bad Corgi is quite literally seized by other forces, leaving the player to accept misbehaviours on the part of Corgi and the app itself.
Cheng continues: “In this way Bad Corgi functions as a shadowy mindfulness tool about refusing to eradicate stress and anxiety, and instead learning to deliberately setup and collaborate with those bad-feeling feelings.”
Featured image Jakob Kudsk Steensen, The Deep Listener, 2019. AR Screenshot. Courtesy the artist. Serpentine Augmented Architecture in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture and Sir David Adjaye OBE