With nearby Silicon Valley driving the development of artificial intelligence, or AI, Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI is the first major museum exhibition to reflect on the political and philosophical stakes of AI through the lens of artistic practice. This series highlights select artworks included in the exhibition.
For her installation The City of Broken Windows, Hito Steyerl draws on the classic trope of painting opening a window onto another world. In doing so, she stages a collision between the technological disruption of societies and artistic acts of resilience and resistance. At the installation’s core are two videos: Unbroken Windows and Broken Windows. The former documents the activities of the “artivist” Chris Toepfer, whose New Jersey–based organization, the Neighborhood Foundation, works to combat architectural degradation in underserved communities across the United States. It does this by replacing broken or boarded-up windows and doorways with joyful paintings, with the goal of fending off further vandalism and destruction. Steyerl’s video—accompanied by a soundtrack of police sirens and radio chatter—follows Toepfer and his team through Camden, New Jersey, pursuing their mission of restoring dignity to abandoned houses. The second video, Broken Windows, is set in a former airplane hangar, built during World War II, in Cambridge, England. There, a team of researchers and engineers employed by Audio Analytic, a company that develops sound-recognition technologies, take turns breaking windowpanes. Their recordings are used to train AI software to recognize the sound of breaking glass, a technology widely used in home safety devices and alarm systems.