The Red Earth Project: language machine learning and augmented reality.

  • Michael Salu

Does language have its own geology? From our ongoing research project at House of Thought entitled 'Red Earth' - a series of translations between photography, film, prose and machine learning to produce, new geologies. Red Earth is a work I am developing as part of exploring the evolution of language and what we consider to be ‘lived experience’. In what I like to refer to as a series of translations, I am looking to create intimate narratives through direct translations between image, text and machine—a three-act structure as it were, with the works currently manifesting as a series of triptychs. In recent years I have been interested in the evolution of language, not just how it became more image-driven, but how it has arguably incrementally developed autonomy beyond our consciousness (or at least awareness). I often begin work with a photograph I have captured, a record within a moment, which I use to create a written text, sometimes a short story or prose, sometimes poetry. In this Afterlife series, the texts become an intermediary as opposed to the end, moving from the physical capture of the photographed earthly elements to the cerebral textual response and then on into an afterlife of the machine. I have been experimenting with machine learning models, which deploy algorithms to find patterns with the text and then finds ways to represent or respond to that text, as I have also done with the photograph to create the text. I then work with the algorithm in the final composition. So the triptych is both symmetrical and asymmetrical. As I’m sure many of us have, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about death of late and how we respond to it. How our relationship with death and grief differs culturally, but how dominant the western, Christian tradition has become in monopolising that experience. I’ve been exploring ancient ritual traditions in relation to death and also thought about how fortunate I am to have access to another experience of life and death outside of the hegemonic ‘western’ understanding of existence, how the rhythm and relationship with the earth of my ancestral home holds a continuity of voice. There isn’t a before or an after, there just is. Hegel suggests “every animal discovers a voice in its violent death” and here I wondered if that is what has happened to us, at least symbolically accelerating us into the posthuman moment. In what way does the digital augmentation of language create its understanding beyond the limits of the language we know as language? How will this afterlife we are living manifest, how will the digital world translate, appropriate and re-manifest our grief and the defiant continuation of our spirit?