Elena Knox, Katsumi Watanabe: Omikuji

  • ©, Elena Knox and Katsumi Watanabe, Omikuji



Artist(s) and People Involved:




    AI, electronic ‘belief machine’, interactive experiment, robot, sound

Artist Statement:

    An AI robot tells your fortune.
    Omikuji are short personal fortunes obtained at Japanese temples and shrines. Exhibition visitors are invited to play the artists’ ‘Belief Machine’. You can receive omikuji in the form of a personal mini sound-artwork, made by the robot and delivered directly to your phone!
    Omikuji began as a live-stream event taking place between Japan’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan) and major international art precincts. It is part of Knox + Watanabe’s art–science experiments Alter versus Deep Belief.
    Alter is an android robot with an experimental AI system that is stimulated by sensor input. It is created by Ikegami Lab and Ishiguro Lab. Alter can sense, learn, and sing. It uses a self-organising neural network to classify its surroundings. Such AI strategies include deep belief networks, through which machines determine certain inputs to be believable. Alter is beginning to believe things about the world.
    Knox+Watanabe make art– science projects exploring sensory and computational perception and conviction in robots and artificial lifeforms. We observe how a nascent robot learns and embodies its ‘beliefs’. If the goal of artificial neural networks is for machines to discern phenomena in a humanlike way, Alter is outputting its discernment of sensory data via its machine body; by this performativity, its belief and behaviour evolve.
    Belief systems are maximally contentious in our globalised world, and are important to both the inter-harmony and the preservation of culture/s. We create artworks to uncover and express the layers of Alter’s budding belief system, in their naïve mutability and contingency, even their idiosyncrasy.
    People may be prompted to ask: How are we transmitting our beliefs to and through machines? How sure are we in our beliefs? How soft are they, and how hard?

    Technical (belief machine): Boris Morris Bagattini, Lindsay Webb Robot: Takashi Ikegami, Hiroshi Ishiguro, Itsuki Doi, Kohei Ogawa Thanks: Yukio Yanagawa, Jenna Lee

    Omikuji was commissioned by Goethe Institut China for the international exhibition <A Better Version of You>. It has been supported by Japan’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan), Waseda University through Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST CREST), and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.