As Seen on CCTV

Can machines be taught to understand our sensory world, and how would they respond to it? What if machines could make up their own 'language'? Award-winning Canadian artist David Rokeby poses these questions and many more, through his works on view in Silicon Remembers Carbon, a retrospective exhibition taking place at the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT) in Liverpool, UK. The show offers an opportunity to interact with pioneering early works such as The Giver of Names, wherein objects that visitors select and place on a pedestal in the space become the subject of evocative, machine-generated descriptors that teeter on the edge of poetry. The visitors to the space become the subject of the piece in Taken, a work which interrogates the hot-button topics of surveillance and profiling. Software written by Rokeby and video cameras in the gallery work in concert, filtering the images and selecting visitors on whom to zoom-in. These images of the public are archived and replayed in the gallery, adding descriptors to the images of selected people, such as 'unsuspecting' and 'intrigued but resistant.' When watching the sea of faces float by in Taken, one realizes that the image of their face is just one more tiny fragment in an enormous database collected by this machine, and others encountered every day. Experience the full range of works in Silicon Remembers Carbon by visiting FACT in Liverpool from 20 April to 10 June 2007, or catch it later on in its tour at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow. - Michelle Kasprzak