MAMA Gallery is proud to present "The Earth Is Flat," James Georgopoulos’ second solo exhibition at the gallery. Anchored by four new video sculptures that the artist created out of found, fabricated, and handmade materials, "The Earth Is Flat" is a critique of the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and the values and hazards implicit to autonomous computing. This new body of work addresses technology’s integration and prevalence in the alteration of human life in the modern age. The artist’s four sculptures themselves are superficially interconnected as to insinuate that technology has implemented itself as an indissoluble event in human history.
The title of the exhibition, "The Earth is Flat," originates from the certainty that we are at a precipice, akin to the era when all of humanity believed the Earth’s surface was flat. Theorists and technologists—Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Stephen Hawking among them—believe that we are presumably in a technological stone age, and that AI will continue to develop rapidly and exponentially in spite of warnings and omens. The war-ready double-jointed Cheetah robots at Boston Dynamics indicate that the ability of manufactured machinery will exceed human intelligence. Hawking himself posits that AI’s could wipe us all out, effectively commencing the end of the human race.
With “Human Behavior” Georgopoulos presents a series of voyeuristic found photographs of women, presumably taken during the 1960s. These telephoto images offer us a platform for which to discuss the idea of “big brother” and the subsequent destruction of privacy. Georgopoulos alters the photographs by utilizing computer tape to stencil gold paint onto the surface, thus effectively fulfilling the position of the voyeur. “Luddite” takes the form of an assembly line robot, bearing the characteristic of a single centered surveillance that once again ties into the theme of a watchful eye.
In “Weight Watcher,” Georgopoulos has retrofitted a vintage 1940s refrigerator with a closed circuit video system, effectively placing the viewer in the position to critique the object’s function as a service and storage device within the confines of the nuclear family. The significance of this object is presenting the fact that after 1940, the television’s relevance increased dramatically and soon became a staple of communication within the average American household. By 1949, there were 100,000 television sets sold weekly. Georgopoulos has intentionally highlighted how the characteristics of closed captioning have exploited the viewer and forever changed the dynamics of social interaction.
Working within the lineage of video-sculptural objects, Georgopoulos pays homage to Nam June Paik’s endeavor to humanize technology and electronic media with “Autonomous X12.” This being the third iteration of Georgopoulos’ series of automotive pieces embedded with or accompanied by film, the work here replicates the driving experience of an autonomous vehicle in real time. This dynamic piece takes the series a step further by outfitting the machine with a video that resembles the self-driving experience in Google’s Project X vehicle. The film, a voyage down Sunset Boulevard from the East Side of Los Angeles to Santa Monica on the West, is indicative of how self-driving cars, such as those manufactured by Tesla, will impact how we travel in the future.
Additionally, “Zeus,” a replication of a quantum computer (e.g. a D-Wave Systems computer), references Deep Blue, the IBM chess computer that beat Garry Kasparov in a 1996 match. Georgopoulos uses the piece to address the fact that this was the first instance in which a human was overtaken by a machine. The computer displays a video work on two separate monitors, each displaying thousands of images that flash dramatically while interlaced with spooling computer code. In contrast, Georgopoulos’ “Alpha” references Google Deepmind’s AlphaGo computer, which recently beat Go champion Lee Se-dol at the ancient strategy game.
In “Organ Donor” Georgopoulos appropriates discarded screens used to print circuit boards, and crafts LED-lit wall-hung multi-media pieces from them, further deconstructing technology down to its elemental form. By doing so, Georgopoulos reveals the simplicity behind human construction and technology’s integration in the future.
At the crux of the exhibition is this learning process—the infinite potential of the AI to log data and synthesize understanding. Fixed on the uncontrollable force of human progress, Georgopoulos’ sculptures expose a profound fragility in our impending and symbolic identity. His objects exist at the perceived liminal space between past and future, asserting their position in a mysterious source of intelligence. The amount a computer can learn is an unknowable quantity. Georgopoulos’ sculptures find a resting point in a sociological vision of the future—the loss of human control and dominance of machine over man.