Magazine article Artforum International

Cecile B. Evans: Galerie Emanuel Layr

Magazine article Artforum International

Cecile B. Evans: Galerie Emanuel Layr

Article excerpt

Cecile B. Evans

GALERIE EMANUEL LAYR

Ask a robot, "What's the weather like?" and you risk the response, "What's the weather?" This punch line repeats throughout Cecile B. Evans's growing oeuvre, which explores the psychological repercussions of the increasing encroachment of artificial intelligence into a terrain previously thought to belong exclusively to the human soul. Using videos, installations, holograms, and now what she calls an "automated play," Evans questions our expectations regarding our relationships with machines as the latter learn to mimic us more and more, paradoxically gaining power through the simulation of human fragilities and failings.

As the weather punch line demonstrates, forging dialogue between man and machine can require finding more specific forms of inquiry: Evans has been experimenting with what she calls "hyperlinked narratives." Taking a cue from online communications, this networked style of storytelling drives the artist's Sprung a Leak, 2016, a three-act play that ran in continuous eighteen-minute cycles from October through March at Tate Liverpool. Its nonhuman cast was comprised of twenty-seven screens, an automated water fountain, two perky-looking humanoid bots respectively named A Plot and B Plot, and an animatronic dog called C Plot. The names give an indication as to how Evans imagines "hyperlinked narratives" to function. The simultaneous presence of alternate "Plots" implies options, as if a reality TV producer--or, for that matter, a viewer--could selectively zoom in and out on various details within the play: say, B Plot's case of the animatronic blues or C Plot's unrequited crush on a deified beauty blogger. In reality, however, all of the characters are animated by a single program script, controlled by a master server. Viewers are offered only the performance of hyperlinks, rather than access to their content.

When translating Sprung a Leak into a gallery presentation, Evans drafted a new series of "Test Cards" (all works 2016), which suggest a retroactive storyboard, except that the events illustrated do not necessarily correspond to those of the play. Instead, each "Test Card" juxtaposes cartoon versions of the three robot protagonists against a backdrop sampled from one of the twenty-seven screens. …

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