“Sightseeing” by Thierry Fournier


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    Sightseeing

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    A CCTV camera is filming a beach and we hear its voice, as if it were alive and thinking out loud. But the perfection of her intelligence has led it to doubt and burnout, and to not know what to do anymore: What is this? What should she look at? What is a suspicious behaviour? But above all, what is the point of all this? It compares itself to the click workers who feed artificial intelligences, questioning the meaning of its work with an anthropomorphism that raises its political stakes.

    Sightseeing (Penser voir) was initially created by Thierry Fournier in 2018 at the invitation of Pierre Beloüin and the Acoustic Cameras project, which invites artists and composers to annex the real time streams of webcams located in different places around the world.

    “With Sightseeing / Penser voir by Thierry Fournier, we quickly understand that we are not confronted with a real AI, but with an artifice, yet we fully adhere to the fiction of this awareness of an entity. Far from breaking our suspension of disbelief, the sound loop that reveals the deception, accentuates on the contrary our empathetic relationship to the AI that “goes off the rails”. It is literally in a loop on its machine condition, and thus on its condition of being (or rather of not being) in the world. While the landscape changes, it doesn’t come out of it, it can’t cope with it. Thus the sound loop is diegetized, appearing as a consequence of this state of burnout described by the artist.

    Paradoxically, it is because it is highly efficient that this AI starts to doubt and to malfunction. The machine’s dysfunction thus becomes a metaphor for the dysfunction of a whole world that should be questioned. For how can one continue in such a world? “Fuck. I can’t make it,” the AI repeats tirelessly, while echoing the invisible click workers, the majority of whom are underpaid, who have contributed to shaping it by feeding it. By worrying about its usefulness, it also challenges the injunction to perform, characteristic of our society, which seems to consider man only in terms of becoming a machine. Thus, the fictional narrative deployed by Sightseeing around these issues of knowledge and doubt, performance and failure, meaning and non-sense, appears to be not only philosophical but also eminently political.”

    Claire Châtelet, lecturer and researcher, University of Montpellier 3 (France), Les fictions de la machine sensible : l’œil, le faillible et la pensée [The fictions of the sensitive machine: the eye, the fallible and the thought], May 2021


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