DRONES WITH DESIRES
A 2015 work by artist and designer Agi Haines in collaboration with Marcel de Jeu, Jos van der Geest, Sean Clarke, Jack McKay Fletcher, Christos Melidis, Vaibhav Tyagi and Marcel Helmer. An MRI of the artist's brain was taken by neuroscientists at Erasmus MC Rotterdam and coded into an algorithm that learns about its anatomy and environment as the drone moves throughout the space.
As the drone learns the network updates telling us how the plasticity of the brain might change if it was in a completely different anatomical structure. The drone makes decisions based on comfort and curiosity, moving its wings to navigate. As it does so connections in the network alter their strength to replicate learning behaviour as it develops in the human brain. Within the gallery space a neural soundscape can be heard and represents the most active nodes in the network and a live feed of the changing network itself. The sounds, when triggered by the artificial neural network, would work to create a compositional soundscape that would evolve as the drone moved through its environment.
We did this in the form electroacoustic composition played acousmatically within the exhibition space, using practises from video game music scores to create repeating sounds that initiate upon the manifestation of certain environmental factors. As the drone moved through this space the sensors on its body would react to objects in its path. This reaction would be processed by the artificial neural network and manifested within the audible composition in real time. Almost as if it were the drones own voice.
The voice box of sounds used for the project came from physical recordings and digital generation of sounds used in the making of the project. Some were recordings of MRI scanners, motors and gears, some were bodily sounds recorded from the artist herself; such as stomach gurgling, fingers rubbing, heartbeats, and the digital sounds were representing the movement of data between sources. These sounds were designed to create a soundscape that was reminiscent of the mixture of the body and technology, this combination in a sense was how the drone was conceived. This work has been discussed in further detail in the paper:“Drones with Desires: Compositional voice for inanimate life-forms”