Earthbound — In Dialogue with Nature

Tega Brain

«Deep Swamp», 2018

The Deep Swamp installation addresses the problem of optimising natural resources through a systemic approach and the use of artificial intelligence. Three glass tanks house semi-flooded environments occupied by swamp lifeforms that are monitored by cameras. Three Artificial Intelligence programmes – named Nicholas, Hans, and Harrison – observe each of the environments in real-time and alter their conditions by modifying light, water flow, fog, and nutrients. The three software agents have different goals, which have been developed through deep learning technology and the analysis of thousands of images of wetlands found online. Harrison works to create a wetland that closely replicates a real environment, while Hans aims to produce a work of art, and Nicholas seeks to produce a composition that will attract a viewer's attention. In this work, Tega Brain emphasises how artificial intelligence is subject to manipulation and can provide different results depending on the objectives. At the same time, the artist does not deny the benefits of digital technologies when they are used in a non-reductionist way to address ecological problems and to develop a more comprehensive view of the planet and its living forms.

Tega Brain (AU) is an artist, environmental engineer, and researcher working at the intersection of art, ecology, and technology. Guided by the question how technology shapes ecology, she investigates environmental issues, data systems, and infrastructures. Her work is characterised by dysfunctional devices, eccentric infrastructures, and experimental information systems. She creates wireless networks coupled to natural phenomena, systems for obfuscating personal data, and an online smell-based dating service. Brain is an Assistant Professor of Integrated Digital Media at New York University and has given numerous talks and workshops at museums and festivals. Her work has been exhibited internationally at several institutions as well as biennales and triennials. Tega Brain lives and works in Sydney and New York.