'Machine Auguries' by Daisy Ginsberg - Commissioned Somerset House and A/D/O

Alter-Projects, as the lead Curator for A/D/O by MINI co-curated with Somerset House “Machine Auguries” an installation by Daisy Ginsberg as part of landmark 24/7 exhibition exploring the non-stop nature of modern life. 


A/D/O by MINI is pleased to announce the debut of a new work by artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg. Commissioned in partnership with contemporary arts centre Somerset House in London“Machine Auguries” was created exclusively for the opening of Somerset House's landmark exhibition, 24/7. Ginsberg’s presentation marks the first time A/D/O by MINI has co-curated an installation with a global institution. 


Curated by Sarah Cook and Somerset House, 24/7 examines our inability to switch off from our 24/7 culture. Over 50 multi-disciplinary works have been brought together to explore the unrelenting pressure to produce and consume around the clock. While many of the participants’ works focus on the human ties to the theme, Ginsberg has chosen to explore its relationship with other species. 


She has spent over a decade researching synthetic biology, producing work that examines the ethics of creating new life forms. Recently, she has begun researching machine learning, as she explores human interests in creating new life forms as we fail to protect existing ones. It is this multidisciplinary approach that led A/D/O by MINI’s Global Lead Curator, Anne-Laure Pingreoun together with Somerset House’s Director Jonathan Reekie to select her for this unique commission. 


With “Machine Auguries” visitors will be confronted by a new orchestration of an AI-generated dawn chorus, the collective song-singing of birds as the day breaks. A ten-minute immersive experience, the installation seeks to highlight the impact of sound and light pollution and our 24/7 urban lifestyles on diminishing bird populations. 


24/7 is a call to action,” says Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg. “As a society, we urgently need to consider how our technological gains interact with the natural world. With “Machine Auguries” I hope to bring to light to something we may not notice: the insidious effects of urban noise and light pollution that impact the ability of birds to communicate and thus find mates, and to consider how our cities might sound as birds disappear.” 


Upon entering, visitors will encounter an ambient light installation simulating the rising dawn, accompanied by a rich sound composition – a natural dawn chorus is slowly taken over by artificial birds in a call and response with machines. Using the technology behind “deepfakes”, solo recordings of chiffchaffs, great tits, redstarts, robins, and thrushes were used to train two specialised neural networks (a Generative Adversarial Network, or GAN) to learn to sing like each species. Reflecting on similarities in how birds develop their song from each other and the training of artificial neural networks, the installation spatializes the learning of a new language. A growing lifelikeness pushes visitors to question how urban noise and light pollution affect other species. 


“The way in which Ginsberg uses AI to blend Urban and Nature is incredibly poetic and demonstrative of the boundary-pushing ambition we look for in collaborators at A/D/O by MINI,” says Anne-Laure Pingreoun, Lead Global Curator at A/D/O by MINI. “Her practice exemplifies the ways in which designers can engage, activate and share their craft in a manner that is equally potent and accessible.”


“Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg is one of nearly 100 artists based at Somerset House Studios, which provides affordable workspace in the heart of London for experimental artists, connecting them with both fellow practitioners and audiences,” says Jonathan Reekie, Director of Somerset House.  “We are proud that Ginsberg is one of ten Studios artists who are contributing new work to 24/7 and we wouldn’t have been able to realize this work without the generous support of A/D/O by MINI.”


“Machine Auguries” and 24/7 will be on view at Somerset House through February 23, 2020. Ginsberg’s work joins the company of Marcus CoatesMat CollishawDouglas CouplandHarun FarockiSusan HillerRut Blees LuxemburgKatie PatersonPilvi TakalaIain Forsyth, and Jane Pollard, among others. In the coming year, “Machine Auguries” will travel to A/D/O; details soon to be announced.