02 Swaayattate (Autonomy)

The image contains a large eyeball with a pinkish cornea set against a black background.

In 2020, I was able to bring the ideas behind Subaltern Futurism as a speculative framework into my practice through my work Swaayattate (Autonomy). The work is an investigation into the complex entanglements of the synthetic and organic worlds. Taking the form of a bi-lingual trilogy, the films are set inside a computer repair marketplace in Bangalore and examines the nature of human-machine relationships through the contemporary lens of gender, caste and labour. The narrative moves between multiple timelines as the evolution of an embedded neural network references prescient concerns around language, accessibility and justice.

Portions of the script for the films were written in collaboration with a text based neural network GPT-2 Transformer (https://transformer.huggingface.co/) extracting & revealing the extent of encoded biases within this AI model. GPT-2 is essentially a text generator similar to the autocomplete functions on our phones. You can input words or sentences and the neural network generates the next word or sentence using pre trained machine-learning models. Widely hailed as being very close to human speech and syntax, my interactions with the language model has proven this to be highly misleading as they contain encoded biases brought over from the subjectivity of the programmers and its own training data. Chapter 2 ADI, speculates upon this process of transference of social biases into algorithmic ones.

Excerpt from Swaayattate (Autonomy)


I started using an AI to create imagery which mashes together images by multiple authors to produce endless variations through infinite combinations. Creating hybrid visions of chimeras, phantasms and abstractions, the AI uses a biological labelling system for it’s creative process – you can ‘edit genes’ and crossbreed, as well as view the family tree of image histories and relationships. Computation strives for biological variety.

These images are difficult to identify and label, to me they look organic – like many different lifeforms mixed together. I am interested in organisms which sit outside our usual frames of reference, or that which are difficult to scientifically label. Much of life on earth hasn’t been discovered, let alone named, and I am interested in the limits of our human understanding through our technologies.

For this residency I would like to use several different viewpoints to categorise this imagery. I will do this in several ways – I will create a new pseudo-scienfic reference system, use multiple human subjects and an AI to describe them.

A grid of images generated by an AI. These look organic and painterly, some look like they have insect body parts, fur, mouths and eyes mashed together creating formless mutants.
A screengrab of a google image search for the Hourglass Trapdoor Spider, which has a pattern on it's abdomen which looks like an ancient Mayan symbol.
^^ Artist description