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Self Portrait as an Avatar 2020

Self Portrait as an Avatar/ Yochi Shrem
Curator: Dana Gillerman 

The technology of artificial intelligence is advancing fast. It creates robots and computers that can hold a conversation, write books, films, and musical pieces. Drive cars, design clothes, and paint paintings. The artificial intelligence produces Apps that can know everything about us, run our lives, allow us to feel that we are not – almost – alone in the world, create for us imagined worlds, and allow us to wander inside them. But regarding emotions and touch, well, no real success has been made. Yet.

Yochi Shrem's work is about the place of the 'person' in the digital revolution, and the inability of the algorithmic language to communicate expressions and emotions. It is composed of a series of four objects made of an iron net and knitting. The work began with scans of the artist's face to 3D software while making different expressions – fear, laughter, surprise. The software generated a digital wireframe with primary colors marking the facial muscles that 'took part' in creating the expression. The way the software mediated the emotions remained artificial. The software was unable to mimic that complex, human, and unique process.

On the one hand, the work was formed using the most advanced digital technology, and on the other, it incorporates knitting –historic, laborious craftsmanship. Shrem follows the colorful digital mapping of the facial movements – that illustrate how the muscles create each expression – and reconstructs them through kitting. In her work, Shrem indicates the present failure in converting human emotions, and especially converting facial expressions, into artificial intelligence. She examines the place of the emotion in the digital culture, and asks whether the digital flattening will affect in the future on human beings' unique features and their individual face and expressions? What is the future of interpersonal communication? Will the threat to these forms of communications grow – and subsequently to the culture. 

Shrem inverts the contemporary dialogue that discusses the ability of artificial intelligence to mimic human beings, their thoughts, and emotions. Instead of focusing on the avatar's ability to be like a "human being," she inquires about turning the human being into an avatar: can that whole we call a person – and the individual self-portrait – be copied, duplicated, and created. Her answer lies in her choice to keep knitting, to return to the historic craft characterized by repetitiveness, labor, and learning processes and has room for interpretations and errors that expose the "glitch" in the system.

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