Strange Loop

A labyrinthine installation by Vijay Rajkumar

 

Smith Warehouse, Duke University - Durham, North Carolina, USA

October  1 - 19, 2018

Strange Loop is an immersive installation that plays with mechanics of perception through the manipulation of light and space. Central to the installation is an array of colorful banners, suspended in mid-air, that span the spectrum of light visible to humans. Textures on these banners are produced by an algorithmic process (DeepDream) that repurposes a neural network trained to recognize objects in images to instead generate imagery informed by what the AI system understands. Featured textures, ranging from abstract lines and contours to more figurative forms of faces, flowers and architecture, reflect the hierarchical, filtering structure by which both artificial neural networks and the human visual system process information. 

 

The walls are lined with six banners forming two triptychs. Eighty-one inches tall, they span nearly the full height of their respective walls. The triptychs feature imagery generated by DeepDream, but here, the textures are generated through the neural network’s interpretation of large-format photographs. These augmented photographs, of Mount Fuji and water lilies, reference iconic imagery. They call attention to pre-existing images embedded in the minds of viewers but present them as fragmented and reinterpreted by a machine that knows nothing about the iconic value of the content. The triptych banners are also lined with two-way mirror film, adding to the illusory nature of the generated imagery and producing a reflection of the physical world in the computationally augmented images.

 

In encountering and moving through Strange Loop, audiences find themselves looking at looking; the installation models a world in which contemporary human perception is filtered not only through color, but also through the abstraction of data and machine intelligence.