No One is an Island isn’t Koch and Ortkrass’s first foray into simulating the motion of the human body with LEDs. In Our Future Selves (2019), viewers encounter their own reflection rendered as light. When they move, their illuminated selves move, too. The artists found that viewers were most captivated with moments when the LED movement was slightly delayed, creating a dissonance.
“[You think] ‘Is it really me?’” Ortkrass said. “‘Or is it something that’s just a replication of me?’”
“All our bodies of work in some way relate to this human experience in an increasingly digitized and automated world,” added Koch.
The themes that underpin No One is an Island point to an entirely new paradigm in how we might function in a world with sentient AI. “There’s no class in school that teaches you that [something may] look alive, but it’s not, so you shouldn’t attach emotion or agency [to it],” said Ortkrass. Together, they probe not only what it might mean if a machine claims humanity, but the power and responsibility of the entity that produces it.