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Culture Crossover: Nimiia Vibié | Emerging tech & innovation

Culture Crossover: Nimiia Vibié | Emerging tech & innovation

The culinary adventurous among us may have already sampled the Japanese delicacy natto, soy beans fermented with Bacillus subtilis. It is an acquired taste, often enjoyed with a raw egg stirred in. But what if rather than a whisked-in de-shelled poultry vessel, you instead mixed in Martian communiques, and ran it all through a computerised

The culinary adventurous among us may have already sampled the Japanese delicacy natto, soy beans fermented with Bacillus subtilis. It is an acquired taste, often enjoyed with a raw egg stirred in. But what if rather than a whisked-in de-shelled poultry vessel, you instead mixed in Martian communiques, and ran it all through a computerised divination system. 

Originating from an audio-visual work performed at London’s Somerset House Studios as part of the n-Dimension residency launched by Google Arts & Culture Lab, Jenna Sutela’s debut solo record aims to explore “computer-generated glossolalia” – in other words, “teaching machines to channel spirits instead of algorithms”.

Sample of
Sample of “Martian” automatic writing by medium Hélène Smith, from Théodore Flouroy’s From India to the Planet Mars

The result is a heavily textured trip into machine-fed bacterial occultism, a two-track LP, Nimiia Vibié, that’s evocative of other worlds even without considering the contributions of the 19th century medium Hélène Smith, who claimed to be able to communicate with beings from the planet Mars, an automatic drawing pioneer that would inspire early surrealists such as André Breton.

Google Arts & Culture explains: the n-Dimensions experience led the Finnish-born artist to collaborate with Memo Akten, as well as engineers at Google Arts & Culture in Paris, to “investigate whether computers could channel spirits instead of algorithms”.

“The piece uses machine learning to generate a new form of communication by documenting the interaction between a neural network, audio recordings of early Martian language and footage of the movements of space bacteria,” Google says.

Whether or not they can, the aural output is convincing enough: spattered, chopped, alien lexicon swirls through and around tunnel-like reverberations. Breathy, unfamiliar phonemes patter left and right in a way that’s reminiscent of particles in a double-slit experiment that’s even more out of joint.

Label PAN adds that the work is an effort to “connect with a world beyond our consciousness and our planet” and that Nimiia Vibié “sounds the interactions between a neural network, audio recordings of early Martian language, and microscopic footage of extremophilic space bacteria.

“Here, the computer is a medium, channeling messages from entities that usually cannot speak. However, it is also an alien of our creation.”

There may be no bacteria better fitted to an exploration of potentially Martian mother-tongues: the B. subtiils culture, once popular before the introduction of antibiotics, later became an ideal test subject for experiments in space. If protected from solar UV rays, its endospores are able to live for as many as six years in the cosmic void.

Neither track is easy listening, but then, why would a computer-simulated conversation between a long-dead medium and a sturdy bacteria be particularly palatable to our human ears?

You can listen to the eerie sonic miasma on Spotify, here, or pick up a physical copy through PAN.





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Susan E. Lopez
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