Constant (Nicolas Malevé and Michael Murtaugh) have developed a series of experiments in connection with the archive of Erkki Kurenniemi, the Finnish artist and technology pioneer of the 1960s. Over the years, Kurenniemi has obsessively documented his everyday activities, collecting vast amounts of audio-visual-textual material to make a digital ‘back-up’ of his life as a template for all human life. The archive is an attempt to provide the necessary materials for someone in the future to be able to reconstruct human life once computers are powerful and intelligent enough to perform the task, reflecting what Kurenniemi considers to be inevitable by 2048, and thus enacting the fantasy of artificial consciousness.
Over the duration of dOCUMENTA (13), Constant explore and try to understand Kurenniemi’s work as a database-body in progress as a living archive in the spirit of his project. Their approach to this task is not to follow standard archiving procedures of processing, ordering and classifying data but to speculate on the nature of the materials themselves by running a series of experiments using human and machine processes. They delve into the inner depths of the database, trying to make sense of it without relying on prescriptive metadata conventions. Instead their reference points become what the files themselves contain at the level of data structure and technical composition.
Constant refer to the use of ‘intermediaries’ - algorithms implemented in code and written by programmers - to “read” this material. But they also invite other human ‘readers’ in the collective task of interpretation of Kurenniemi’s archive. Thus, the interpretation operates across human and machine systems which in themselves are not neutral; algorithms do not provide an absolute and unbiased interpretation but an interpretation based on their own model of reality. Constant describe these intermediaries as becoming ‘interlocutors’ - thus recognizing the different ways that both machines and humans understand and interpret the world. The archive can thus be explored in ways that humans alone cannot perceive.
An image, audio or text file is always more than simply a representation of something but also an interconnection of relations. A further aspect of this is the way that objects in the archive are shared, as each object is only an object inasmuch as it demonstrates a set of relations. Constant’s experiments begin to open the lid on these relations, to the legal status of the objects, different regimes of ownership, to the intermediaries of Finnish law and copyright. As Constant suggest, algorithms might be used to filter other aspects of a digital object that legal filters do not recognize as privacy infringement. The alternative interpretations that Constant reveal become the conceptual base of their project: to not simply show materials but to interpret their internal structure and composition in parallel to the complexity of human life itself. Their interpretation of Kurenniemi’s archive is to uncover aspects of what is not directly apparent.
Online Archive: Erkki Kurenniemi (In 2048) is created by Constant Association for Art and Media (Nicolas Malevé and Michael Murtaugh), commissioned by KURATOR and dOCUMENTA (13) in partnership with Central Art Archive of the Finnish National Gallery (Perttu Rastas), and Contemporary Art Museum KIASMA, Helsinki. Supported by Arts Council England.