When Paul Knight met his partner Peter in 2009, he began the photographic series Chamber Music, 2009– producing hundreds of images of companionship and intimacy. A selection of these works appear alongside works from the AGSA collection depicting moments and traces of intimacy. The photographs are displayed alongside Naked Souls, 2023, two chatbots that use machine learning and natural-language-processing technology (artificial intelligence or AI used by computers to replicate human language) to imitate the conversation of ‘Paul’ and ‘Peter’.
The ‘conversation’ is facilitated by two datasets introduced to the machine’s algorithms that develops its ‘personality’ and drives the dialogue. The first is a personal archive of more than 170,000 words, taken from text messages between Knight and Peter across the first two years of their relationship and is characteristic of the intense yearning to be physically together. A second set comprises 40,000 words from dialogue in Kim Stanley Robinson’s sci-fi novel Aurora (2015), that relates to ideas of future planning, survival and problem-solving in the scenario of life after earth.
The armature displaying the chatbot references a cabinet, used for Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Trinity supercomputer. An accompanying soundtrack records both men sleeping; breathing and snoring are heard as a subtle hum that moves in and out of sync throughout the day, echoing the sound of the fans used to cool supercomputers in a real-world context.
At a time of collective uncertainty associated with AI systems, Knight’s project demonstrates a real example of human love to machine intelligence and allows audiences to observe how the technology develops a responsive understanding. Underscoring Knight’s project is an aspect of risk, whereby the artist transfers his relationship to the unpredictable power of machine learning.