“A space to consider AI as a prompt to abandon positive and positivist visions of the future, for meaningful resistance in a time of an overdetermined computational life.”
Art and design education history is filled with revered experiments. The Bauhaus (1925-32) famously brought fine artists and craftspeople together under one roof, to share knowledge about materials and methods—nurturing approaches and aesthetics that would become foundational to modernist art and graphic design. Black Mountain College (1933-57) jettisoned most of the bureaucratic conventions of what makes a school a school, creating a gradless co-op environment where students took charge of their education (and even grew their own food). And under John Maeda, the MIT Media Lab’s Aesthetics + Computation Group (1996-2003) prototyped new forms of digital expression—software art, interactive displays, data visualization—that are now commonplace.
Collectively, these schools paved the way for much of the thinking about how we make art that is now convention. They did so through radical pedagogy that challenged academic hegemony, and reinvented what and how students learned, often inspiring entirely new types of work and ways of working. Since then, with tuition rising worldwide and increased economic pressure on students, the stakes of education have only risen. With few exceptions of post-austerity experimentation—the School for Poetic Computation (SPFC), the School of Machines, Making & Make-Believe—universities and colleges increasingly resemble vocational factories. In them, the likelihood of critical reflection diminishes as resources get scant, as programs retool around profitability and industry expectations, and as students’ economic prospects become more dire. Any time a group of educators tries to break this mold we should take note.
With the incontestable fact that the world needs more radical pedagogy in mind, HOLO is very excited to announce its participation in the upcoming AI Anarchies Autumn School, co-curated by Maya Indira Ganesh and Nora N. Khan for JUNGE AKADEMIE. Taking place at Berlin’s Akademie der Künste Oct 13-20, the school will conduct “experiments in study, collective learning and unlearning,” through a variety of talks, panels, and workshops drawing on a impressive roster of multidisciplinary fellows, tutors, and a study group. Its primary focus: taking thinking about AI to task and expanding the conversation about what is possible.
“The school pushes back against both capitalism and corporatism. It aims to repair our psyches and social practices—now that AI and automation are so thoroughly entwined with the fabric of everyday life.”
Countering the ‘AI Ethics’ discourse that has taken root over the last decade—the idea that if we could only get Big Tech’s engineers and entrepreneurs to be better citizens, and design systems with responsibility in mind—the school pushes back against both capitalism and corporatism. And most crucially, against a general lack of imagination about what our lives with AI might be. It also acknowledges that our tableau of algorithmic timelines, natural language processing bots, and bustling data marketplaces is the world we now live in, and pragmatically aims to repair our psyches and social practices—now that AI and automation are so thoroughly entwined with the fabric of everyday life.
As Ganesh and Khan put in their statement: “We want to create a space to consider AI as a prompt to abandon positive and positivist visions of the future, for necessary disregard, for meaningful resistance in a time of an overdetermined computational life. By consciously moving beyond a re-statement of the status quo of solutions, of solutionist discourse, we insist on undoing our own positions.”
‘Undoing our own positions’ resonates, because it posits personal agency instead of (only) pointing a finger at Amazon, Google, or Palantir. The school’s program of panels and workshops is a kaleidoscope of responsibility and resistance, play and provocation, with threads of dreaming, feminist organizing, multisensory stimulation, and whimsical performance running through it. Beyond the savvy sociopolitical framing you’d expect from the assembled brain trust, the school looks like an awful lot of fun.
“It offers a kaleidoscope of responsibility and resistance, play and provocation, with threads of dreaming, feminist organizing, multisensory stimulation, and whimsical performance running through it.”
As the embedded editorial partner, HOLO will respond to the Autumn School’s radical pedagogy and playfulness in kind. Over the coming weeks, this dossier—the AI Anarchies Tracker—will become a rich repository of notes and highlights from its discussions and workshops, but it will also be a place where HOLO pokes, prods, and questions the provocations that bubble through. Beyond our excitement about joining Ganesh, Khan (who we thoroughly enjoyed working with on HOLO 3), the participants, and the JUNGE AKADEMIE team of Clara Herrmann and Nataša Vukajlović, we’re thrilled to share our (un)learnings with all of you.
The JUNGE AKADEMIE’s AI Anarchies Autumn School, curated by Maya Indira Ganesh & Nora N. Khan. The school is part of the AI Anarchies project, initiated and curated by Clara Herrmann & coordinated by Natasa Vukajlovic. It includes an artist residency programme for six artists in cooperation with ZK/U Berlin and a concluding exhibition in June, 2023 at Akademie. AI Anarchies is supported by the German Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media.