The Treachery of [Soft] Images

LCD screens, micro-computers, Internet router, cognitive computation engine and custom software.

Installation / 2016

The Treachery of [Soft] Images is an inquiry into new forms of conceptual art which make use cognitive computational systems and Internet technologies. The piece appropriates Rene Magritte's famous statement “This is not a pipe” in his painting “The treachery of images” and utilizes it as the starting point for an experiment in art and machine learning, hence revealing a new hybridized notion of reality rendered over our natural cognition by intelligent on-line systems.

The installation consists of two computers with framed LCD displays inserted into a wall. The computer on the left searches on the Internet for an image of six possible objects: a pipe, a broom, a hammer, a sponge, a jar or an egg. Once an image is scraped from bing's image search engine, the system submits it to a cognitive computation engine, an artificial neural network trained to recognize, analyze and describe images in a human-like form. The result is displayed on the right screen of the installation, revealing the conceptual reality experienced by the machine. In a similar way than Magritte's original piece, which evidences the way images betray our notion of reality through signs, The Treachery of [Soft] Images reveals the distortion of reality rendered by cutting edge on-line artificial brains and the way these affect our perception.