Installation, dimension variable, 2021

Chambers, installation view, Post territory Ujeongguk, 2021 / Photo: Byeonggon Shin

The project 'Chambers' examines the complex interrelationship between laboratory rats, wild rats and machine learning.

There were animals before humans and machines. Before humans created and experimented with machines, they used and experimented on animals. Much as it seems their relationship is inextricably entangled, they are, in fact, each other—partially or entirely. Based on this complex ontology, humans have inevitably anthropomorphized animals and machines to understand them and the human self, shaping an intricate ecology of empathy. This project examines these ecologies and aims to create a new type of nonhierarchical coexistence.

The project focuses on rats (rodents, generally). Within certain cultures and histories, rats are often despised and considered dangerous and harmful and are, therefore, killable. Conversely, in science laboratories, rats are one of the most popular subjects; they are considered useful, highly productive, and also killable. Machines, existing between humans and rats, play a crucial role in revealing their complex sociopolitical implications through categorizing and pattern making.

'Chambers' consists of 3 individual works, Bare Life(film), Arbitrary Radius Circle(3 channel video), and The Fall(Machine Learning generated moving image).

Funded by︎︎︎
Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture, Seoul Metropolitan Government
Society for informatics(GI), German Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Supported by︎︎︎
Air Rifle Pest Control, UK

Research inspired by︎︎︎
Freie Universität Berlin, Institute of Animal Welfare, Animal Behavior and Laboratory Animal
Science of intelligence, Germany

Arbitrary Radius Circle
3 Channel Video, HD, color, stereo, 9mins

The title was taken from the poem Strange Reversible Reaction by Korean poet Yi-Sang (1910–1937). The three-channel video depicts a schizophrenic process in which fictional scientists (behavioral psychologists) repeat experiments to find the ‘ultimate behavioral pattern of an organism,’ but in the end, they realize that they have always been subjects and experimenters. The video consists of a machine learning lecture, interview clips of Skinner, a fictional scientist’s diary, and lines from the poem.

Arbitrary Radius Circle, still, 2021

Arbitrary Radius Circle, The Fall, installation view, 2021 / Photo: Byeonggon Shin

The Fall
Machine Learning generated moving image, Unity, non-stop playing

“Is outside of the chamber, a failure, escape, death, or rebellion?”
An algorithm trained the falling rats in the video for 23 seconds to perform a specific task in a specific area. As a result, most rats failed (did not perform) the task and fell out (escaped) from the chambers. After a certain period of time, the rats were summoned back to the original area and the process was repeated for as long as the program ran. The black lines in the graphic were generated by the movement of the algorithm’s agent (rat) and show the behavior patterns.

The Fall, installation view, 2021 / Photo: Byeonggon Shin

Untitled, installation view, 2021 / Photo: Byeonggon Shin