Video Sculpture Final Project Proposal

April 17, 2019
Project Name: ALEX, Your Best Friend at Work
Artist: Carrie Sijia Wang


Project Description

3 Words that Describe your proposal:
Artificial Intelligence, Free Will, Participatory Performance

One sentence description of the work:
“ALEX, Your Best Friend At Work” is a performance and participatory experience that takes the audience into a futuristic office constantly observed, measured and evaluated by an artificial intelligence system called “ALEX.”

Full description of the proposed project:
If we ever reach a world where artificial intelligence knows us better than we know ourselves, are we willing to give in to the all-powerful technology, trade our privacy for a sense of security, our free will for happiness?

“ALEX, Your Best Friend At Work” is a performance and participatory experience that takes the audience into a futuristic office constantly observed, measured and evaluated by an artificial intelligence system called “ALEX.”

For ALEX, every word, action or thought can be turned into data, measurable against an enormous database of rules and standards. Whenever the system detects anything out of the normal, acceptable range, the employee in question is required to attend a “repair session”—a 10-20-minute one-on-one session with ALEX, watched by the other colleagues. Through conversation, data collection, various tests including facial expression analysis and speech analysis, ALEX helps the employee determine the root cause behind their unusual behavior, and make the necessary changes to fix their problems.

The project consists of two parts. The performance portion follows a linear narrative, in which an employee of the company gets caught on camera crying in the stairwell—a behavior deemed “out of range”—and gets called in by ALEX for a repair session. The participatory portion of the project invites the audience to be immersed in the workplace environment under the gaze of ALEX.

For the Video Sculpture final presentation, I will show the interactive part of the project with 3 classmates as participants. It will be a guided experience combining screen-based interactions, motion graphics, speech synthesis, and live performance. The participants will be asked to abandon their free will for 10 minutes and give in to ALEX’s instructions. In the process, their bodies become sculptural objects, manipulated in space by a computer system to achieve the utmost harmony of the group.


Installation Plan

Location: Dean’s Conference Room, 12th Floor (or an ITP classroom if my reservation doesn’t go through)

Artist Statement

I am a Chinese-born, NYC-based multimedia artist. With a BFA degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2012), I am currently a master’s candidate at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU.

I work mostly in performance and interactive installation. My work revolves around the artificial layers between all the possibilities of reality and what I have been taught to see. These layers confuse, alienate, inspire and fascinate me at the same time. To break these layers down and reveal the underlying structures, I started creating narratives and curating experiences based in fictional, often dystopian worlds. “The System,” a live performance I did in 2018, presents the process of a futuristic, bureaucratic test—The Content Generator Qualification Test—which becomes a metaphor for how information is generated and consumed in a totalitarian society.

Prototyping and user testing are essential to my process. In 2017, I created “Alex The Dating Expert”, a participatory performance that invited people to have 5-minute speed dates under the guidance of an artificial intelligence program. Before the show, I conducted weekly experiments to test out different prototypes of my program and see how participants react to the experience.

The juxtaposition between the real and the fictional, the rational and the absurd is a recurring theme in my work. I believe that the fictional can serve as a mirror for the real, and the absurd can often bring out the most honest thoughts and reactions.

I have shown my work at venues including New York Transit Museum, Art Museum of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, Spokane Public Library, and CultureHub.

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