Taking Natural Language Processing and search engine results as her raw material, artist Marija Bozinovska Jones gestures towards an interdependent conception of consciousness with image, movement and ritual.
With Beginningless Mind, Marija Bozinovska Jones poses some fundamental questions, how do we know, how do we know that we know and, crucially, what makes our beliefs justified? In a tripartite, audiovisual narrative, Jones explores two central public access knowledge commons, Wikipedia and search engines, in real time, using NLP (Natural Language Processing), a branch of artificial intelligence that deals with the interaction between computers and humans using natural language, developed alongside Jayson Haebich. By connecting the content streams of Wikipedia and Google Earth to search engine results, Jones is able to analyse live speech, connecting spoken language with what most people at any give moment are searching for online in a complex simulation of rational, human-centred intelligence. “I’m curious about the ineffable and the transcendental; the embodied as an experience which cannot be expressed into words,” explains Jones to Edwina McEachran of AND Festival. “With technological interfaces, which rely on language as a communication tool, we tend to hit a wall with the affective, an invisible wall most of the time. Referencing philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s ‘the limits of my language are the limits of my world’ the work communicates overarching ideas which deal with production of reality and ordering of knowledge. Essentially, artificial intelligence is manufactured knowledge, a simulation of knowledge and intelligence as cognitive processes disregarding embodied knowledge.” Juxtaposing images captured via satellite with footage filmed at the Observatory Science Centre at Herstmonceux, Jones uses a third-person POV most closely associated to gaming, marking a thread of subjectivity in opposition to the satellite’s Gods’ eye perspective.
By using NLP in conjunction with publicly accessible knowledge resources, Jones is able to exceed the limits of what the program is trained to recognise semantically, approximating a collective understanding of speech based on the results of what most people were searching for online at that moment. “It wouldn’t necessarily return results for the searched phrase or the string of words, but whatever was most optimised or trending, often with rather arbitrary results,” explains Jones. “The returned results can be nonsensical and very entertaining, revealing a rather lucid algorithmic reasoning.” In this way the artist shows how this algorithmic reasoning effects its own production of reality, ordering knowledge into categories based not on personal enquiry, but on populism, both democratically derived and artificially boosted via Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). “It is techno-capitalism at its best,” asserts Jones. “This way of deriving knowledge creates a notion of reality, including the proliferation of fake news and conspiracy theories. This is the reason why I wanted to go somewhere beyond language because the overarching idea of the work is interconnectedness and interdependence as a felt experience – something experienced as a sense of belonging and a nurturing way of being in and with the world.”
In its original iteration, Beginningless Mind gestured towards more embodied forms of intelligence in image, spoken word and the stunning electronic score from 33EMYBW and Gediminas Žygus. For Rivers, Rhythms, Rituals, Jones worked in collaboration with Berlin movement artist Franka Marlene Foth to translate the results one step further, into a “kinesthetic vernacular,” which the artists describe as “a gesture where the verbal collapses meaning onto movement.” In a process of translation that moves past the machine-level perspective of intelligence as a cognitive process that disregards embodied knowledge, Jones situates Beginningless Mind as issuing forth and flowing through the body, a corporeal liberation from algorithmic reasoning. “To transcend the limitations of language, Beginningless Mind observes the mind as embodied intelligence with porous boundaries,” describes Jones. “A view of the body as a collective assemblage of social, material and unknowable multitudes, queers the nature-culture divide. Starting where we are, we can begin to refine our consciousness towards universal kinship. Viewed as an open holistic system, such intelligence releases innate wisdom through movement, where the unfolding of awareness exceeds the threshold of the skin.”
By transcending the limitations of language and redefining intelligence and knowledge as inherently bodily phenomena, Jones is able to trace consciousness as an expansive, flowing network of interdependent exchange, between mind and body, organism and environment. “In union with the environment it is composed of and situated in, the embodied mind as intrinsic multiplicity feeds back information through sensing multitude sources,” explains Jones. “A view of a collective sympoietic assemblage as tangible and imperceptible interrelations, offers liberation from categorisations. Interdependent with other ecosystems, collective embodiments engage in a perpetual life-maintaining ritual of energy flows. The title, Rivers, Rhythms, Rituals, refers to the dharmic notion of the mind as universal consciousness which has no beginning nor end and manifests as a constant energy transformation. Approaching our need for connection through the commons of the internet and our primordial interrelationship with the more-than-human, could prompt us to nurture our contact zones. Starting where we are, we can begin to refine our consciousness towards universal kinship.”
In a gesture towards an interconnected, interdependent model consciousness, Jones finds a radical, participatory practice in the form of Self Optimisation, a psilocybin tea reading which, in her own words, “invites embodied knowledge of an online mycelial infrastructure to decolonize hierarchical world-making and collectively hallucinate new imaginaries.” Employing the same NLP techniques as Beginningless Mind, selections from the canonical science fiction of Octavia Butler were used as the spoken input, to which hallucinatory imagery harvested from search engine results was matched in a “collective acts of lucid dreaming.” Placed in opposition to the approximated, algorithmic understanding demonstrated in the initial iteration of the work, Self Optimisation looks to merge the technological with the biological, combining NLP with psychedelic experience to discover new neural networks, embodying knowledge in the mycelial structure of psilocybin. In the communal ritual of the tea reading, Jones finds embodied forms of knowledge that might hint at a more hopeful future.
It’s a hopeful practice that relates back to Rivers, Rhythms, Rituals, which, when it was shown as part of The London Open 2022 at Whitechapel Gallery, included edible, micro-dosing chocolate sculptures, a reference both to the exploding psychedelic micro-dosing industry, but also to ritual practice and the idea of devotional offerings. “While the mirrored surfaces provide space for self- and world-reflection, I’m proposing a gift economy,” says Jones, “an alternative value exchange to counteract our dominating systems of economic exchange, and an affective exchange to counteract interpersonal relationships with transactional character.” By directing the flow of Beginningless Mind into public rituals and participatory events, Marija Bozinovska Jones re-situates intelligence as both embodied and relational, transcendent of artificial simulation and inseparable from the planetary networks of technological and biological systems within which we are embedded. It is through these systems that we might find answers for Jones’s fundamental enquiries: how do we know? How do we know that we know? What makes our beliefs justified?
Self Optimisation was originally produced for Mycological Twist’s Myco TV in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement presented at MOSTYN online and at Centrum in Berlin.
Beginningless Mind (Rivers, Rhythms, Rituals) Credits:
Music score – 33EMYBW and J.G Biberkopf
Choreography – Franka Marlene Foth
Dancers – Janan Laubscher, Camille Jackson, Steph B. Quinci, Dana Pajarillaga, Myriel Welling
Software Development – Jayson Haebich
Voice – Natasha Kerry
Wardrobe – Ottolinger
Set – Studio Lilo