Commissioned by the Museum für angewandte Kunst (MAK) for the Vienna Biennale 2019.
Asunder responds to a growing interest in the application of AI to critical environmental challenges by situating this approach as a literal proposition, combining state of the art climate and environmental simulation technology, a 144 CPU super-computer and Machine Learning image-making techniques. The result is a fictional ‘environmental manager’ that proposes and simulates future alterations to the planet to keep it safely within planetary boundaries, with what are often completely unacceptable or absurd results. In doing so, Asunder questions assumptions of computational neutrality, our increasingly desperate reach for techno-solutionist fixes to planetary challenges, and the broader ideological framing of the environment as a system.
Satellite, climate, geology, biodiversity and topography for a series of terrestrial regions is used to generate an ever-evolving series of environmental management plans where human and non-human agendas are combined and weighted in different ways. A central argument made by those encouraging the uptake of AI is that data-driven systems can depoliticize or neutralize decision making. Extended to the context of ecosystems, this could imply that ecological agendas are prioritized over human goals (and over the status quo where human systems of production are preserved at the expense of everything else).
The work is structured into discrete simulations for different regions, positioning ecosystem as computational surface. As cities are relocated, nations combined, coastlines straightened or rivers moved, the work shifts between humorous to preposterous, from uncannily eco-fetishistic to tediously bureaucratic. Project website: https://asunder.earth/
Tega Brain is an Australian-born artist and environmental engineer whose work examines issues of data, ecology and infrastructure. She has created wireless networks that respond to natural phenomena, systems for obfuscating fitness data and an online smell-based dating service. Her work has been shown in the Vienna Biennale for Change, the Guangzhou Triennial and in venues like the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin and the New Museum, NYC, among others. She is an Assistant Professor of Integrated Digital Media at New York University.
Julian Oliver is a Critical Engineer, artist and activist based in Berlin. Exhibiting since 1996, his projects and lectures have been presented at many museums, international electronic-art events and conferences, including the Tate Modern, Transmediale, Ars Electronica, The Chaos Computer Congress, FILE and the Japan Media Arts Festival. Julian’s works and collaborations have received several awards. Julian has often dedicated his studies and knowledge in counter-surveillance, network engineering, information security and systems administration to the assistance of at-risk groups, with a focus on environmental defense.
Bengt Sjölén is an independent software and hardware designer/hacker/artist based in Stockholm and Berlin with roots in the Atari demo scene. He collaborates within several networks like Weise7, Hackteria and Critical Engineering Working Group. His work follow many different threads, spanning subjects such as biology, software radio, electromagnetic fields and artificial intelligence. His work has been presented internationally in events like Arte Mov, Ars Electronica, Synthetic Times Exhibition, NTT ICC Tokyo, Venice Biennale of Architecture, ISEA, Pixelache, World Expo 2010, Transmediale and The Glass Room.