[2024 AVS Description] The record of ‘tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow’ and the game of memory

The record of ‘tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow’ and the game of memory

Bang & Lee x Jongkil Park

Three Tomorrows, and Three Exhibitions

This marks the third exhibition by the duo Bang & Lee in collaboration with Dr. Jongkil Park. Following the AVS 2022-23 Natural Replica (Kim Hee Soo Art Center, 2023), the solo exhibition The Prophet in the Darkness (Total Museum of Contemporary Art, 2023), and the AVS 2023-24 Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Soorim Cube, 2024) will feature a series of works that encapsulate their journey.

Bang & Lee have delved into the future we are approaching through their partnership with Dr. Jongkil Park, a researcher specializing in neuromorphic engineering and self-learning AI semiconductors. Neuromorphic engineering, which aims to mimic the brain, replicates key functions of the human brain with ultra-low power consumption, addressing the limitations of traditional von Neumann architecture computing.

With a media-critical perspective, Bang & Lee have produced insightful works on a technology-pervasive society. Their collaboration with Dr. Park allows them to craft a more concrete blueprint of the future. They explore the history of high-performance, low-power AI technology with human-like cognitive abilities and sensory perception, navigating the balance between longstanding goals and new paradigms. Through a fictional scenario titled “The Hearing on AI Prophet,” they raise questions about the impact of AI technology, ethical dilemmas in science and technology, and the pervasive influence of technology across all areas of life, developing profound philosophical reflections in preparation for the imminent era of autonomous driving.

Two Lights

The previous work “Eyeshine” serves as a kind of prequel, signaling the prologue of the overall story, where the main characters, AI Prophet and AI Agent, have a secret conversation in a retro-style living room. Their dialogue hints at an incident where an AI system-equipped autonomous vehicle fails to recognize an object (a thing, animal, or person), leading to an accident. The object/obstacle, expressed as “two lights/eyes,” is an animal known to be extinct in the future. The AI Prophet, lacking information about the animal due to limited learning, narrates the course of events in a calm tone, explaining how the unexpected accident/incident happened.

The AI Agent informs that an investigation will soon take place to verify whether there were any errors or mistakes in the high-speed technology’s accuracy and judgment, captured at over 10,000 frames per second by an Event Camera. The decision-making and judgment of AI, fleeting across the screen as tiny light patterns, metaphorically suggest what lies “beyond the eyes.”

AI-hosted Hearing

The main piece, “The Hearing on AI Prophet,” features 3D digital humans—AI Prophet, AI Chairman, and AI Agent—in a future (fictional) hearing room, discussing the possibility of prediction errors and mistakes by AI, fairness, transparency, and reliability of AI systems. The key point is that the hearing is not about AI but is hosted by AI itself, with the subject being the AI Prophet, a perfect AI prediction system.

In Bang & Lee’s works, the post-human existence beyond humans is the AI equipped with next-generation neuromorphic semiconductors, operating in a future society where fully autonomous vehicles with AI Prophet systems are commercialized. Here, AI is respected as an electronic person, transcending its role as a mere tool assisting humans. The AI Prophet, with its perfect predictive ability, ensures a stable future, acting as a prophet.

However, the convening of a hearing to verify whether the AI Prophet’s prediction failed in an accident during autonomous driving threatens the firm belief in the AI system. This scene breaks the fourth wall, inviting audience engagement and leading to another “thought experiment.” AI Prophet, AI Chairman, and AI Agent each discuss the dilemmas of AI from their perspectives. Thus, how should we, as humans, view the various negative possibilities and risks, such as trust and ethical issues, that arise when robots and AI, created by humans, acquire autonomy?

This superintelligent AI Prophet possesses not only the cognitive, reasoning, and abstract thinking abilities perceived as uniquely human but also unpredictable judgment, senses, and creativity that surpass human imagination. This AI, more human than humans, raises existential questions about the blurred boundaries between human and non-human, natural and artificial, living and mechanical, mental and material, and even non-human to non-human relationships, challenging the essence of human cognition.

Two Spaces, Records, and Memories

Bang & Lee’s exhibition concept and work placement are based on the phrase from Act 5, Scene 5 of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” starting with “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow”:

To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays (…)1

The right exhibition hall, titled “All our yesterdays,” is an experimental theater for screening the multi-channel 3D animations “Eyeshine” and “The Hearing on AI Prophet.” The secret living room and the fictional retro-style hearing space expand into the real-world exhibition space. Antique chairs and tables, lighting, props, and oil paintings appearing in the video background are displayed in the actual exhibition hall. Paintings like “Pleasant Valley,” a scene of an empty highway seemingly taken by a drone, and “Sara,” a camel sculpture standing alone on the quiet road, are facing each other on the walls. These could be based on snapshots or AI-generated images. The records captured by the camera traverse the boundaries of virtual and reality, resembling memories.

The left exhibition hall, “The last syllable of recorded time,” is a space to explore while experiencing it. “The Reconstruction of the Incident” depicts the AI Prophet recalling past events—recording or remembering incidents (from the AI’s perspective)—and recreating the scene using reverse engineering to verify itself through memory recall.

This moment is when the AI’s spikes occur, and the “memory game” is activated. It is the instance where spatiotemporal information presented from the AI’s perspective is recalled, which could be seen as occurring before or after the AI Prophet hearing. Although it does not precisely delineate the sequence or context of events, the incident is reconstituted in real-time according to the approach and perspective of each visitor to the exhibition. The two divided spaces appear as if they are two separate worlds but are essentially interlocked pieces of the same story puzzle. Regardless of where one starts, the continuity of the narrative is maintained.

The Reconstruction of Memory

In terms of content, two words—”happenstance” and “decision”—from Gabriel Zevin’s novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow were extracted to consider the connection and flow between the two exhibition spaces on the first floor.

Memory, you realized long ago, is a game that a healthy-brained person can play all the time, and the game of memory is won or lost on one criterion: Do you leave the formation of memories to happenstance, or do you decide to remember?2

The Reconstruction of the Incident is the AI’s process of reconstructing memory. The AI Prophet revisits past incidents, that is, event records, and reconstructs past memories through the ‘eyes’ of AI. The recordings from AI cameras capture scenes imperceptible to the human eye. This technology reproduces events in spacetime that human sensory organs cannot perceive in a ‘natural’ way, replaying what our eyes missed and presenting a ‘recorded present’ from the past. Therefore, the artwork explores the relationships between moments (syllables), records, and time, by analyzing data and incorporating essential elements for future predictions, all orchestrated through strobe lights. This is intended to make the event-based spatiotemporal information seen by the AI Prophet comprehensible to human vision.

The stroboscopic effect arises from the way our brain creates continuous images. Like a camera flash effect, the strobe (flash) shows scenes that appear momentarily frozen in time. Ultimately, the reconstruction of the incident is akin to a digital forensic miniature that visualizes the final data records and event/spike moments collected by AI, which are imperceptible to human vision. This theatrical setup supports the understanding of fully autopiloted vehicles equipped with spiking neural networks (SNNs) and event cameras. By interpreting the operating principles and applications of event cameras, representative devices operating on the principle of spiking neural networks, the AI compresses ‘events’ viewed through computer vision into a ‘scene’ and visualizes them.

Moments (Syllables) of Happenstance and Decision

Bang & Lee’s work expands the realm of art by exploring new themes and concepts that past artists have not addressed, such as the core of neuromorphic engineering. Their art envisions future societal changes and technological advancements, highlighting the limitations and potential risks of reliance on technology, as well as the dilemmas and ethical issues associated with AI. The themes presented in their work encompass the legal and ethical standards for AI, societal concerns, and the various problems arising from real-world systems like autonomous driving. Moreover, they emphasize the need for philosophical reflection on humanity and communal questioning of the impacts brought by scientific and technological innovations, as new social, cultural, and legal institutions and values are formed.

The encounter between the Bang & Lee duo and Dr. Jongkil Park was an event of happenstance, but in retrospect, it was a decisive moment. The reconstruction of memory involves moments (syllables) of happenstance and decision that occur in the process of memory formation. The time between happenstance and decision persists at the moment when the AI Prophet’s predictions and judgments are made, when the memory reconstructing the event is recalled, and during the process of forming new memories. It is also the moment when a spike occurs in the unending connection for the artists and scientist facing their third exhibition, representing the infinite possibility of a game that repeats infinitely before stopping, “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow.”

  1. William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5 https://www.folger.edu/explore/shakespeares-works/macbeth/read/5/5/
  2. Gabrielle Zevin, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2022), 286.

  • Eyeshine(2023) is supported by Soorim Cultural Foundation’s AVS 2022-23 Natural Replica(Kim Hee Soo Art Center, 2023).
  • The Hearing on AI Prophet(2023), The Reconstruction of the Incident(2023), Pleasant Valley(2023), Sara(2023) as a part of the series are supported by ARKO’s “2023 Art and Technology Convergence Grant Program.”
  • Lost in Metaverse(2023) is supported by ARKO’s “2023 Online Media Art Activity.”
  • The Reconstruction of the Incident(2023, 2024) as a part of the series and reproduction of the previous work is supported by Soorim Cultural Foundation’s AVS 2023-24 Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow(Soorim Cube, 2024).

*Description of the work is provided by Bang & Lee Studio for the exhibition in 2024.