Western Myall wood, charcoal, linseed oil, steel, 3D animation, duration 00:03:09sec
Experimenta Promo Video
courtesy Brett Walter
Photograph 1 by Remi Chauvin 2021
Photograph 2,3 & by Eden Meure 2021
2019 - 2020
I reach for a dried branch, beneath a stack of wood that has been curing for a year or more. “That one there.” Al points, I pick it up. “Yeh that's a good bit,” he says. I pause to look at it, feeling the weight in my hands. “What kinda wood is it?” I ask. “That's Western Myall. Yeh that's a good bit.”
I'm new to carving. Eager. Uncle Moogy got me started on this journey of learning how to carve, and then somehow I landed a studio at Al's. I explain that I'm looking to make an artwork that communicates a chasm between the virtual and the real. An artwork that speaks to some of the problems associated with humanity's obsessive attempts to further technology and create Artificial General Intelligence. A machine that's smarter than a human. A self-evolving machine. A sentient machine. Al nods and talks about the importance of passing down cultural knowledge to younger people. I pause to think about a similar conversation I had with Uncle Moogy. About the spirit within everyday objects. Uncle tells me that everything has a spirit because everything came from the Earth, just as we did. It's conversations like these that make me think we should all really be focussing on reconnecting with the sentient Country we are part of, in the real world.
I sit down outside in front of a stump, the sun on my face, and as I slowly chip away at the block I think about how different it feels to staring at a computer.
Cultural and technical advisor – Uncle Moogy Sumner
Cultural and technical advisor – Allan Sumner
Character artist / CG lead – Brett Walter
Modelling / assistant digital artist – Arthur Ah Chee
Aboriginal Contemporary Arts (ACA Studios), Aldinga SA
Flinders University Motion Capture Studio
An Experimenta and ANAT commission.
Watch full silent animation below
Experimenta Life Forms - Curatorial Rationale
“Why do we strive to create a sentient form of Artificial Intelligence, or to find sentient life elsewhere in the universe?...The quest for sentience has become a distraction from the urgent need for us all to form kinship with Country and the objects of our creation, to reconnect with the spirit of Country and culture that already exists”. Brad Darkson, 2020.
Smart Object is a multi-media installation that questions humanities obsessive pursuit of technology, in particular the ambition to create an Artificial General Intelligence - a machine as smart as a human and potentially self evolving and sentient.
The artwork reveals two simultaneous processes; a wooden plongi (club) hand-carved by the artist with guidance from Allan Sumner and Ngarrindjeri Elder Uncle Moogy, and a looped 3D animation of the artist’s avatar performing the carving process, generated from sophisticated motion capture technologies under the guidance of creative digital technologists. The dialogue between the physical and digital components of Smart Object explore notions of time, cultural knowledge transfer, and the innate spirit or life force of and within all things.
Darkson critiques humanity’s reliance on the digital that serves to sever our spiritual connection to Country and encourages us to reconnect with the sentient Country we are all a part of, in the real world.
“Uncle tells me that everything has a spirit because everything came from the Earth, just as we did. I sit down outside in front of a stump, the sun on my face, and as I slowly chip away at the block I think about how different it feels to staring at a computer.” Brad Darkson, 2020.
– Jonathan Parsons, Lubi Thomas and Jessica Clark