UCL Multimedia Anthropology Lab is proud to present Multimedia Encounters, our latest exhibition and experiment created to coincide with UCL MAL’s first academic conference: Multimedia Encounters: Experimental Approaches to Ethnographic Research. 

Multimedia Encounters attends to the relationship between anthropological thought and computer intelligence. Algorithms and the anthropological mind both operate recursively, dismembering knowledge as we know it, re-calculating and birthing alternative manifestations of ethnographic data. Our exhibition seeks to probe and push this formal equivalence, exploring its limits and creating new ground for future multimedia encounters.

The exhibition aims to dissect and examine our own systems of value, to re-think how knowledge is produced, and to create spaces for re-imagining what it means to be (more than) human in a 21st Century mediascape. In addition to presenting the work of conference panellists, our exhibition features work from UCL MAL’s global network of anthropologists, artists and researchers.

VIRTUAL EXHIBITION

MULTIMEDIA ENCOUNTERS

EXPERIMENTAL APPROACHES TO ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH

HOW TO NAVIGATE THE EXHIBITION

Below is an outline of the three possible linear journeys together with indications of where the portal to the next space is located. These are titled route 1, route 2 and route 3.

Each route's journey will start and end in the default ‘crater’ setting (Wade Wallerstein's Room), where you will be invited to recursively explore alternative routes. This information is also available to be downloaded in a PDF format below. However, we also encourage you to take on the challenge of locating these portals yourselves: you may find unexpected encounters...

You can also directly access the individual exhibition rooms in the descriptions below.

ENTER THE BEGINNING OF THE VIRTUAL EXHIBITION THROUGH ROOM 0

ROOM 0: Wade Wallerstein


ENTER ROOM HERE Virtual Phenomenology is an ongoing investigation into the lived experience of traveling through, inhabiting, or otherwise interacting with virtual and simulated spaces, landscapes, and software environments. Wallerstein has spent time traversing virtual environments and conducting ethnographic field research across various computer-generated realities. Wallerstein’s research is grounded by Tom Boellstorff’s assertion that the virtual is not reducible or opposed to the real; instead, the virtual is opposed to the actual. Both the virtual and the actual are very much real, but rooted in the affordances of their material singularity. Further drawing upon Christopher Tilley’s definition of phenomenology as encompassing the relationship between Being and Being in the World, this project seeks to uncover how the material affordances, aesthetic conventions, and social mechanics of commercial 3D interactive virtual worlds shape social understandings of space as well as cultural relations amongst online communities. In this iteration of Virtual Phenomenology, Wallerstein presents a selection of field note recordings inside Ghost of Tsushima, a single-player game developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4 system. Noted amongst gaming communities for its sharp computer-generated graphics, engaging gameplay, and hyperrealistic environments, Ghost of Tsushima presents an interesting case study in virtual landscape phenomenology in both its fantastical symbolic representation of late 13th Century Japan, high-caliber world simulation, and built-in tools for environment modulation and recording. The site-specific installation in Mozilla Hubs for Multimedia Encounters presents a kaleidoscopic view into this world, showcasing a number of overlapping videos from inside the game world recorded using virtual camera software. The overwhelming barrage of overlapping visual information displayed in this installation in turn simulate the over-stimulating and massively multiple qualities of these kinds of 3D virtual worlds, which uniquely offer opportunities for players/users/visitors/travelers to experience rapid nonlinear movement through an unimaginable number of high-fidelity environments at once. The experience engendered by these immersive imaging technologies, software environments, and gaming interfaces is ultimately one of fragmentation or context collapse. To find the path forward, walk through the screen to the terrain beyond. You will find three portals scattered around the outskirts of this default landscape on the outside of the installation. The blue portal marks the start to route one, the purple portal is for route two, while the red portal initialises route three.





To find the path forward, walk through the screen to the terrain beyond. You will find three portals scattered around the outskirts of this default landscape on the outside of the installation. The blue portal marks the start to route one, the purple portal is for route two, while the red portal initialises route three.

ROUTE 1

ROOM 1: Moshen Hazrati


ENTER ROOM HERE How can AI help visualise the future by using tools from the past? In Moshen Hazrati’s ongoing work Fāl Project: Word’s Soul, AI is utilised in the visualisation process of bibliomancy - a sacred method of Iranian future foretelling. Using the random selection of book passages, bibliomancy answers specific questions about the future placed by its practitioner. Bridging Iranian literature with technology, Hazrati explores their creative potential by applying AI and algorithmic-translations to historical texts, thus ‘growing’ three-dimensional scenes. As you continue along the turquoise path, you will discover a world of Hazrati’s collaborative visualisations. To find your next portal, continue on towards the very end of the path.




ROOM 2: Daniel Bravo Jimenez


ENTER ROOM HERE Daniel Bravo’s 1944 and C. Emiliano Jiménez Cuapio reinterpret the construction and maintenance of collective memory as a communicative process, expressed sonically in the form of oral memory. The user spawns between the two sonic pieces, marked out by green lights. Audio samples from family interviews, gatherings and historical recordings encircle the final pieces in a deconstructive manner. Using TidalCycles, Bravo sonically re-digested the biographical context of his grandfather, Emiliano Jiménez Cuapio –– a migrant worker who moved to the USA in 1944 from San Juan Totolac. Bravo’s code from TidalCycles is plotted around the space in an attempt to further unravel the non-linear process of sonically composing his pieces. To continue the exhibition, type ‘/fly’ into the chat. Point your mouse towards the floor to go through it. You will find the next portal below the ground plane.




ROOM 3: Zach Mason


ENTER ROOM HERE Zach Mason’s Machine Learnt Landscapes contemplates the ways in which Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven environments simultaneously create–– but also provide means to make sense of–– the plural ontologies which are emergent properties of Machine Learning (ML) systems. Exploring a ‘world mediated by ML’, Mason emphasizes society’s increasingly symbiotic relationship with ML, and how it is causing established ontological notions to shift and adapt to new realities. Accordingly, ML's contemporary, mediatory role is also an important part in producing an indigenous theory of human-AI interaction and, ultimately, a ‘new’ sense of Anthropology altogether. In this room, you will find Mason’s film hovering above a desert-like ‘Learnt Landscape’ which has been built by mapping AI-produced faces onto a three-dimensional terrain. The portal to Funkhouser’s room is on the other side of the floating video.




ROOM 4: Giuliana Funkhouser


ENTER ROOM HERE The foundation of Giuliana Funkhouser’s research project AfterMath is a Max patch interpreting varying viewpoints of a story through a 4-channel spatialized sound art installation. Randomized elements within this computer program are based on numerical datasets detailing information about Puerto Rico such as exit-traffic and mortality estimates following the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. Synthesized drones modulated by sonically interpreted data harmonize with and interrupt field recordings from daily life on the island – including the song of the endemic frog coqí and conversations during a blackout at a restaurant. AfterMath is an ode to those who have moved on or survived to tell the tale after living through catastrophic events exacerbated by negligent disaster response. Teleport yourself into the next room by following the frogs through the foliage.




ROOM 5: Maria Nastase


ENTER ROOM HERE Commonly used as an alternative to data visualisation and as an aid for the visually impaired, sonification has become one of the most effective processes for informing auditory interactions and perceptions of physical surroundings. In Maria Năstase’s Sonic Images: Pixel Sonification in Photographic Image, a new way of exploring photography and sound is realised through pixel sonification. By mapping sound samples and frequencies to pixel colors and photograph brightnesses, pixel sonification allows for both ‘hearing’ and ‘seeing’ to be merged into the same perceptual realm via hard-coding sound into photographic images. In this room, you are surrounded by Năstase’s Sonic Images in which sound samples are programmatically altered based on a range of pixel color and brightness values. Walk through the mouse to make your way to the next portal.




ROOM 6: Stratton Coffman and Isadora Dannin


ENTER ROOM HERE Proof of Concept willfully misinterprets objects of design, engendering an epistemic action against the utility of brainstorming, prototyping and assessing. In light of this, Stratton Coffman and Isadora Dannin have staged a series of guerilla actions which humorously subvert the proprietary methods instrumentalised in the interest of capital. The video documentation mediates a re-orientational ethnographic encounter with the body, making it forget and therefore undermine its own productivity. The surrounding assemblage of pots and mugs are also borderline absurd –– these objects cannot service the visitor in any way. They are walkable and haptically frail, foregrounding the suspension of outcomes or goals in favour of laborious processes. North-east to the spawn point is a white pot with a handle. Step inside of it in order to find your next portal.




ROOM 7: Yoonha Kim


ENTER ROOM HERE Many Virtual Hanboks: Traditional Korean Garment Provoking Alternative Ways of Being in This World by Yoonha Kim explores the possibility of diversifying digital materialities in parallel to ontological transformation by foregrounding both ancestral beliefs and contemporary forms of communications. Featuring the Korean hanbok, Kim’s work highlights the garment’s range throughout history and contemporarily in the digital world. From adorning physical bodies to k-pop music videos, vlogs, and online games, the hanbok is anything but a static antiquity. Kim’s video collage is a result of field recordings of the physical hanbok across several states, as well as screen recordings of computer-generated, hanbok-provoked imaginary combinations of materialities and ontologies. Surrounded by Kim’s hanbok renderings and collage, this space invites you to explore the digital side of this living tradition. Peek under the pair of trousers for your next portal.




ROOM 8: Steffen Kohn and Nestor Siré


ENTER ROOM HERE In Steffen Köhn and Nestor Siré’s Screenwalks: Exploring digital connectivity with the help of desktop cinema, the method of digital ‘screenwalks’ was developed to make explicit the concrete processes of engagement with digital mediums which are often difficult to verbalise. Emerging from research on SNET–– a vast grassroots community computer network in Havana, Cuba––the method of ‘screenwalks’ entails users and admins to giving researchers visual and verbal tours through networks while elaborating on how they experience it. These ‘screenwalks’ create a dimension of participant-engaged observation, evoking users’ pre-reflective, affective, and immediate experiences as they unfold in real-time and navigate the net. At the centre is a typical desk of a SNET user displaying one of the Screenwalks. To access the full versions of Screenwalks, click on the URL behind every video. Your next portal lies behind one of the encircling videos.





ROUTE 2

ROOM 0: Wade Wallerstein


ENTER ROOM HERE Virtual Phenomenology is an ongoing investigation into the lived experience of traveling through, inhabiting, or otherwise interacting with virtual and simulated spaces, landscapes, and software environments. Wallerstein has spent time traversing virtual environments and conducting ethnographic field research across various computer-generated realities. Wallerstein’s research is grounded by Tom Boellstorff’s assertion that the virtual is not reducible or opposed to the real; instead, the virtual is opposed to the actual. Both the virtual and the actual are very much real, but rooted in the affordances of their material singularity. Further drawing upon Christopher Tilley’s definition of phenomenology as encompassing the relationship between Being and Being in the World, this project seeks to uncover how the material affordances, aesthetic conventions, and social mechanics of commercial 3D interactive virtual worlds shape social understandings of space as well as cultural relations amongst online communities. In this iteration of Virtual Phenomenology, Wallerstein presents a selection of field note recordings inside Ghost of Tsushima, a single-player game developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4 system. Noted amongst gaming communities for its sharp computer-generated graphics, engaging gameplay, and hyperrealistic environments, Ghost of Tsushima presents an interesting case study in virtual landscape phenomenology in both its fantastical symbolic representation of late 13th Century Japan, high-caliber world simulation, and built-in tools for environment modulation and recording. The site-specific installation in Mozilla Hubs for Multimedia Encounters presents a kaleidoscopic view into this world, showcasing a number of overlapping videos from inside the game world recorded using virtual camera software. The overwhelming barrage of overlapping visual information displayed in this installation in turn simulate the over-stimulating and massively multiple qualities of these kinds of 3D virtual worlds, which uniquely offer opportunities for players/users/visitors/travelers to experience rapid nonlinear movement through an unimaginable number of high-fidelity environments at once. The experience engendered by these immersive imaging technologies, software environments, and gaming interfaces is ultimately one of fragmentation or context collapse. To find the path forward, walk through the screen to the terrain beyond. You will find three portals scattered around the outskirts of this default landscape on the outside of the installation. The blue portal marks the start to route one, the purple portal is for route two, while the red portal initialises route three.





ROUTE 3

ROOM 1: YoungEun Kim


ENTER ROOM HERE In Red Noise Visit, YoungEun Kim resurrects the ‘sounds of the past’, spotlighting two characteristic sounds at the backdrop of Korea’s modernization. The first sound is of the siren: over the course of 36 years, the curfew siren gradually instilled within the nation a strict temporal discipline, dominating the space, time, and minds of individuals. In tandem with the memory of the siren’s sound is the rigid visuality of the siren tower (formerly, a Japanese-occupation era watchtower) which stands as the tallest redbrick watchtower in existence. The second sound is the radio, which carried deliberate propaganda and ordinary transmissions to and from each side of the border. The perceived sound of all radio signals was thus labelled ‘Red Noise’: two vexed sounds—two ‘red noises’—one oppressively striking down upon the flow of time, the other permeating across spatial borders. Towards composing Red Noise Visit, Kim utilised news articles, interviews, and essays describing echoic memories of the siren and radio. In this room, Kim’s work is enveloped in a totalizing, almost oppressive, red space, inviting you to be completely taken over by a vivid collective memory and Korea’s ‘sounds of the past’. Discover your next portal by going past the video on one of the ends of the tunnel.




ROOM 3: Stefan Voicu and David Farrow


ENTER ROOM HERE Stefan Voicu’s Don’t come home this year and David Farrow’s Sounding Disorder in Police Riots are both video-based works that navigate through landscapes of uncertainty and protest. Voicu’s video creates a virtual dialogue out of publicly sourced footage of Romanian migrants stuck on the border between Austria and Hungary. While Farrow explores sonically-mediated encounters with police rioting, where counter-protesters and the police collide in a disturbed soundscape of police sirens, LRAD (Long Range Amplification Device) speakers and chants. The two works communicate with each other in a heightened language of anxiety, manifesting an environment where restrictive walls and roadblocks hark back to vernacular manifestations of urban protest. Continue the exhibition by going inside the black cube behind the roadblocks.




ROOM 4: Penelope Watson & Yiannis Christidis


ENTER ROOM HERE In dialogue with one-another, Penelope Watson’s visual works and Yiannis Christidis sonic composition A Final Preparation communicate rich traditions of passage and transcendence. Blending ‘documental’ and imaginary soundscapes, Christidis creates an immersive sonic experience centring around the funerary preparations of a body. In Watson’s works, the aesthetic tradition of the Greek Orthodox Church is contemplated through artistic practice, serving as an ethnographic process of reflection, iteration, and communication. Inspired by the synthesis of these works, the cloud-like formations in this room interplay with themes of ‘ethereality’ and touch upon the non-textual communication of lived tradition. To find your portal to the next room, continue past the central light which is illuminating the floor.




ROOM 5: Ezgi Sonmez


ENTER ROOM HERE What does it mean to be living and dying at the same time? In Ezgi Sonmez’s film Memento Mori, the ‘untethered’ potential of life must reckon with the inevitable finality of death. Arising from her ethnographic fieldwork on the interwoven stages of grief, Sonmez contemplates mortality and loss through rich verbal and visual expression. Lapping gently like waves, Somnez’s solemn and rhythmic delivery navigates us through what it means to be aware of death during life. Step through the film to discover the black cube with the portal to the next room.




ROOM 6: Funa Ye


ENTER ROOM HERE In Funa Ye’s work Beauty+, beauty apps and filters –– otherwise known as beautification software –– are central to contemporary notions of the self and the proliferation of facial recognition and data surveillance in China. As the world becomes ‘filtered’ and smoothed over with the click of a button, ‘flaws’ become conditions of a reality left behind. The three-dimensional models have been built on this premise –– all of the faces that you see are merely products of beautification software such as Meitu and Instagram filters. To enter the next exhibition room, make your way to the chin of the upwards-facing model and step inside it.




ROOM 7: Zlata Mechetina


ENTER ROOM HERE Zlata Mechetina’s Computer Vision as Digital Baroque mediates the surplus time that many have compounded as the result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mechetina’s photographic series has been made entirely through Zoom and then subsequently edited into collages. Historical connotations of the Baroque period and its ornamental visual language have been repurposed for deformed assemblages. The result is accidental renderings by three-dimensional modelling software as it tries to create more vertices out of a flat photograph. As part of an ethnography on surplus time and furloughed populations, Mechetina made audio recordings from online webcam modelling websites which can be heard throughout the scene. Teleport yourself into the next room by entering the floating black cube north-west to the spawn point, behind one of the floating collages.




ROOM 8: Makda Iyasu


ENTER ROOM HERE Mx Chiquita is an exploration of gender fluidity in the Amazon and was part of The Third Space exhibition that looks at themes of spaces and marginality. The room consists of a futuristic backdrop for showcasing a series of intimate interviews, simulating a grand billboard experience. Behind the seductive imagery is a documentation of the struggles of a queer movement in contemporary Brazil. The viewer is transported into the story of a party of resistance for over 40 years, happening alongside the religious Círio de Nazaré celebrations. The space is balanced with colourful devotional objects and showcases the famous banana from the American company Chiquita. Step into a world of imagination and queer emancipation in an invigorating, simulated space. Look for a green rectangle next to the image of a beauty mask for the next portal.




ROOM 9: Tess Baxter


ENTER ROOM HERE In the work The avatar and the artist; collaborations across space and time, Tess Baxter explores massive multiplayer online spaces (such as Second Life) as a collaborative realm of embodied ‘residence’. By bridging together ‘creative commons’ performance pieces and exhibitions with public domain material - in this case, Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony no. 3, Heiligenstadt Testament and Second Life - Baxter seeks to demonstrate how digital space is not separate from ‘reality’, and to explore the ways in which it is both used and outwardly conveyed. Drawing on the aesthetic utilised by Baxter, this work is displayed in front of a group of flames and within an infrared, encompassing space. To access the next exhibition room, go into the middle of the fire.




ROOM 2: Zach Mason and Joseph Clark


ENTER ROOM HERE Pretend AI, Pretending to be People This virtual space presents an ongoing conversation and collaboration between artists Zach Mason and Joseph Clark both who are interested in data collection, visualisation and the transformations of artificial intelligence. In a bedroom, inspired by the setting that many conversations between us have taken place, we will take on the role of AI where we limit ourselves to responding only to what has been said through the information present in the room, without the context of each other's prior intentions or personal lives. Text, 3D models and video works will be systematically produced in response to one another and placed in the room. Neither of us take the same view on the benefits, dangers and possible governance of AI but through this ongoing collaboration, and quasi-performance, we will experiment with how an AI would question itself and interpret others. The room will gradually become cluttered with objects and images - overlapping, merging and colliding with each other. Those who access the space may view each object as a conversation, or statement, in itself or step back and view the bedroom as a larger dialogue. http://www.jfclark.space/ https://oogbrain.com/