Engineering the Self

Root Division, San Francisco, 2019

Engineering the Self is a video installation that presents the Self as a construction engineered through machine learning as mechanized by accelerated capitalism. A machine learning model called a Deep Convolutional Generative Adversarial Network (DCGAN) was used and trained on four separate datasets on images of human body parts. This model takes in large amounts of data in order to learn a hierarchy of representations. The videos depict what the model has learned, the interpolations being new and unique constructions generated by the model, both fascinating to watch and eerily real and unreal.

Using this real and unreal tension as an artistic metaphor, the companion essay looks at how machine learning models accelerate data collection as an ‘interactive mirror’, capturing and warping the individuals they process. The warped capture is multi-faceted, narrowing and filtering the many complexes of the self, and reflecting back certain, along with new, aspects of a person. The projection that exits leaves with traces of this journey, to mold the individual further in a cybernetic feedback loop.

Migratory Paths: Traveling By Water, Land And New Terrains

B4BEL4B, Oakland, 2018

Migratory Paths: Traveling by Water, Land and New Terrains was an exhibition that examined the effects of migration where old cities and social paradigms dissolve and new ones form with the causes rooted in political and capital centralized structures of control.

The exhibition brought together creative works that documented contemporary and future migrations over water, land and social terrains, presenting both the personal narratives that are being experienced as well as the macro narratives that exist. A curatorial project, participating artists included Sofia Cordova, Xiaowei Wang, Zoe Sandoval, Delta_Ark, Deniz Tortum with Cagri Hakan Zaman and Nil Tuzcu, Gabriel Dunne and Tiare Ribeaux, Oliver Ressler, Zhan Wang, and Joty Dhaliwal. 

Traveling By Water

B4BEL4B, Oakland, 2018

An installation in conversation with Mazen, Remi Alkhiami, Somar Krekar, and Yaman Albaker, four individuals from Syria now living in Germany, discussing the conflation of identity the term refugee brings. An eighteen minute video, they discuss their passions, creative practices and aspirations, as counter narratives to the images often depicted of refugees in the media. Being neither helpless or extractive, they are passionate and driven, loving Syria and mourning it's loss, but also curious about the new world they now live in and the opportunities it brings for their practices and self expression.

Installation media included a projector projecting onto water, subwoofer for low frequency oscillation of the water, and proximity sensor actuating the speaker. Sculpture, electronics, filming and editing of full video by Joty Dhaliwal. Participation and coordination conducted by Somar Krekar and conversations conducted by Somar Krekar and Remi Alkhiami. Filming and editing of overview video to the right by Noah Hussin.

Gan Hands : Algorithmic Production

Liebig12, Berlin, 2018

From the dexterity of our hands we have built the technologies around us, from the first hand tools to the machines we utilize now. In these hands is something unique that not many other animals share, our hands are a symbol for what humans can produce.

As machine learning algorithms begin to generate artifacts that were thought to be uniquely in the human domain, such as literature, art and music, what is left for human's produce? Will the definition of what it means to be human have to change, to be something other than a producer? Particularly in a world where value is placed on production, indicative in the measurement of a country's worth coming from GDP, will we continue to value production or will we come to value something new?

Gan Hands is an installation that used a DCGAN built in Tensorflow to generate new “imagined” replications of human hands. A Deep Convolutional Generative Adversarial Network is a machine learning algorithm that takes in large amounts of data, in this case 11,000 images of hands, in order to learn a hierarchy of representations from the object parts. During it’s training period, the network begins to generates ideas of other possibilities based on the hierarchies it has learned, the visualizations going from blurry to more accurate or odd as the training unfolds.



While the artifacts are creepy and eerie, inaccurate and accurate, the labor leading to this point is remarkable. From the original researchers putting out the first papers on GANs in 2014, to the physical computation hardware required (the training period utilized GPUs to parallel process all the computations, Paperspace was used to create a virtual machine somewhere on the continent of Europe to process all the data, exact server farm location unknown), to the days spent editing, formatting and aestheticizing the data, the labor and resources required for our algorithimically derived world is an interesting context to reflect on.


The dataset was partially printed in paper, so it was possible to see its size in physical space. This installation brought up questions of what could be made into data, binary points that can be made into math equations. For Pythagoras this was the world and all it’s contents, but is there some data that is easier to collect than others? And if water flows in the path of least resistance, and we continue to develop processes based on data, the question becomes will some things be highlighted and others left to become obsolete, unrecognized or unvalued. Where do emotions such as unconditional love, kindness and generosity fall in this equation?

Lines And EEG

Spektrum, Berlin, 2017

Lines and EEG is an installation by Vanessa Li and Joty Dhaliwal, mapping readings from an EEG headset to a projection mapped generative line design.

The brain can be understood in terms of electricity; when a neuron is activated and spikes, it's resting voltage changes and we observe neural functions occuring. EEG measures voltage changes on the exterior parts of neurons and allows us to guess at how a neuron might react (voltage spike or not). EEG readings observe a macro oscillation that we categorize according to frequency and label as brainwave.

This installation sought to illustrate this electrical aspect of neural activity and to visually represent these electrical movements to the viewer. Guests would wear an EEG and observe changes in the line design. Aspects of the lines were mapped to different brainwaves; an active gamma frequency would result in the lines multiplying, a beta frequency would result in the lines becoming wider, alpha would result in the lines becoming squigglier, and a theta frequency would result in fuzzier edges. Delta was not mapped. Guests could also play the aluminum pipes of the sculpture to see and hear the affects of the resonance.

Sound + Consciousness: The Soundscaped Cocoon

Storefront Lab, San Francisco, 2016

Through experiences and objects, Sound+Consciousness is a foray into the influence of sound on the mind. In its first installation, The Soundscaped Cocoon, guests were led on introspective journeys by an array of soundscapes; from sound healing sessions and ambient musicians to field recordings and performance art.

Merging performance with audience participation and traditional sculpture, The Soundscaped Cocoon sought to create a different type of artistic gathering. Inviting guests to leave the role of a static viewer and merge with their environment, experience design became a medium, with public engagement and programming playing a large role in the installation.

Exhibited as part of the The Unknown, The Unknowable, The Future, StoreFrontLab's 2015-2016 exhibition series, investigating the underlying doctrines that guide and motivate us as we design cities, advance medicine, and create art. In collaboration with Colin Wang, Laura Cohen, Maricarmen Sierra (SierrayMar) and Anneli Virkhaus.

“Being inside the cocoon was like being inside the 3D equivalent of a blank canvas....I was ready to receive and fully immerse myself in any sensory experience. Once the sound journeys started I felt completely transported! After being overwhelmed by multi sensory VR inputs at SXSW, it was such a joy to have a deeper experience relying on the single input of sound.”

“Sitting in the cocoon, with 8 other strangers, you could feel the walls of our daily lives come down and instead, a truthful loveliness collectively emerge. The curated soundscape took me far into myself and expansively out.”

“Being in the cocoon allowed me to watch the fibonacci sequence unfold upon my senses - space, sound, mindful intention coming together in leaps of deep feeling and whimsy”