Pierre Huyghe’s Brain Scan Art Shows Online, Minus the Flies
21 September 2020
Exhibited by Hauser & Wirth, the works are made using an fMRI machine and artificial intelligence.
Pierre Huyghe, Of Ideal (2019–ongoing). Deep image reconstructions, real-time generated reconstructions, face recognition, screens, sensors, sound. If the Snake, Okayama Art Summit, 2019. Photo: Masayuki Saito © Kamitani Lab / Kyoto and Pierre Huyghe.
They've been described as the stuff of nightmares but Pierre Huyghe's Mental Image works, now showing in an online exhibition entitled Of Ideal at Hauser & Wirth, are derived from the thoughts of waking subjects.
Participants were asked to look at pictures or conjure thoughts of life forms, prehistoric tools, machines, artworks and other entities while their brains were scanned by a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) machine at Kyoto University's Kamitani Lab. These scans were then fed to a neural network, computer software that interpreted them by comparing them to a database of pictures taken in the real world.
The rapid sequence of amorphous images, reminiscent of foetal fauna or sprouting flora, that Huyghe exhibits are amalgams of the images the neural network sifts through as it attempts to match the visual information from the brain scans.
Huyghe's first mental image work, UUmwelt, showed at Serpentine Gallery, London, in 2018. In that exhibition, 50,000 bluebottle flies were released into the gallery to further unsettle audiences and the special status afforded human thought over other biological and computational processes.
The Of Ideal (2019—ongoing) works were first shown as an installation consisting of three videos made up of deep image reconstructions, real-time generated reconfigurations and audio that was carried out in Okayama, Japan in 2019.
Born in Paris in 1962, Huyghe is known for his use of unusual materials to explore speculative themes. Previous works have incorporated a beehive-headed sculpture, a genetically modified (and trademarked) GloFish, and an incubator inhabited by dividing cancer cells.—-[O]