Hume’s Tomb / A Sharper Image, 2019
“Hume’s Tomb” is a video about how machines know things and what they do with that knowledge. Indulging in a bit of archaeology of the digital world, the video revives Microsoft’s infamous late 1990s Windows desktop agents. In doing so, it proposes looking at today’s digital agents (such as Amazon’s Alexa) as, on the one hand, implementations of a probabilistic model of thinking first proposed by David Hume in the 1700s; and, on the other, the latest incarnation of numerous small magical creatures—such as djinn, leprechauns, elves, sprites and faeries—that embody anxieties about power, servitude, entrapment, paranoia, wish-fulfillment and control.
“A Sharper Image” is a series of jigsaw puzzles that depict orca whales, the beloved Puget Sound icons who are often employed as symbols of indigeneity, environmental catastrophe, or as stand-ins for nature as a whole. The orca pictures were synthesized using a new Adobe 3D compositing software intended for product and packaging design. This software renders photo-realist images of the shimmering surfaces of luxury objects with extraordinary precision. Digital technologies have become adept at mining, storing and manipulating enormous reservoirs of data. However, there is a common misapprehension that more data leads to better understanding. These puzzles sit uneasily between the desire for ‘the whole picture’ and the suspicion that the basis for ethical action resides elsewhere.
The video will be available for viewing and the puzzles for piecing together at cogean? gallery in Bremerton, Washington. Additional puzzles will be located on the Washington State ferries “Kaleetan” and “Chimacum” that sail between Bremerton and Seattle.
February 1–March 15
open during events and by appointment