Our graduating students share the process behind their practice. Here, Anamarija Podrebarac explores artificial intelligence, James Joyce and durational performance.
Graduating from MA Photography, Anamarija Podrebarac, uses durational performance and stream of consciousness writing to reflect on her mortality, life experience and the edges of language.
It started in December last year. I was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, something that was I was carrying with myself throughout my studies. I had aggressive therapies that made me sick; every Wednesday morning I was here throwing up, people thought I was pregnant.
I went back home to Croatia and my doctors told me that I was all better. It was the best news in the world. But I never looked back on my condition, or appreciated how serious it was. Then, back in London, it hit me; I couldn’t leave my room for weeks. I was at ground zero.
When a tree grows, you might think that it’s in control but it’s not. When the trees change their colour or are dying they communicate through the roots and fungal network, sharing resources and helping each other. I finally left my room to map these trees.
In the UK, 40% of trees are not indigenous, they’re from the colonies. When you look at the British landscape, you’re actually looking at the British empire. They’ll co-exist but they don’t communicate. When you look at the state of the world today, it’s all happening because of a lack of communication.
You think you’re going to die, you start looking for meaning in anything that surrounds you. I’ve always been interested in technology, but only as a tool for expanding our own creative abilities rather than something to immerse yourself in. There is AI software that possesses all human knowledge, every written word, but at the same time it has no experience. I like this paradox; there’s something there to work with.
My practice uses Natural Language Processing Technology, which is the branch of AI that deals with language so it supports things like Siri on an iPhone. I want to find its boundaries of representational language.
I started reading his stream of consciousness and worked on how to get into that place. It took weeks. It was frustrating. With practice and meditation I found that I can switch it on and off.
I built my own EEG machine which measures brain waves. It’s a very simple one. I would wear the EEG cap, recording brain waves while I wrote a stream of consciousness on the wall, a duration performance which was hours long. The process was magical.
Looking at the continuous flow of nonsensical sentences, I converted them into data and established a pattern from the EEG readings and using AI create poetry which I called 1. Then I used the pattern of the trees that I’d documented to generate another set of poetry called 0.
0 and 1
It does feel like there’s two people residing in me. One is seeking control, seeking establishing control by creating texts and printing them. If you’re like me going out and noticing patterns and how everything connects, life could really drive you insane.
But then there’s the durational performance in which there is no control. That process is all about embracing the chaos and doing something.
Anamarija Podrebarac's work can be see in Show One: Art, 22-26 May, at Central Saint Martins.