The Vašulka Live Archive website is one of the main outputs of the three-year research and application project Media Art Live Archive: An Intelligent Interface for Interactive Mediation of Cultural Heritage supported by the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic within the ÉTA programme (No. TL02000270). The aim of the project was to program intelligent tools and develop special interfaces that together form a unique epistemological apparatus for the study of the Vašulkas' work. The focus of the project corresponds with the ethos of the work of Steina and Woody Vašulka, who are world-renowned members of the founding generation of video art, known for their experimental approach to the exploration of video technology and electronic signals as artistic media. As well, The Vašulka Live Archive research project was created in close collaboration between human and machine actors and is based on an innovative approach to exploring the syntax of electronic and digital tools.
The project Media Art Live Archive: An Intelligent Interface for Interactive Mediation of Cultural Heritage responds to the dynamic changes in archival and museum practice within the global trend of digitization of cultural heritage, especially the ongoing digitization of artwork archives and their online accessibility. (Google Art & Culture, 2011) (Europeana, 2009) However, it is not limited to the organization of the content of digitized archives using traditional library tools, rather it explores the potential of digital technologies for innovative ways of working with archives and the interactive communication of cultural heritage to the public. Specifically, it involves the use of artificial intelligence in the form of application of machine learning of artificial neural networks in the analysis of the audiovisual works of Steina and Woody Vašulka and the development of interfaces for interactive mediation of the content of the archive of their works in online and offline environments. The beneficiaries of the resulting outputs of the project are the Centre for New Media Arts - Vašulka Kitchen Brno and the Brno House of Arts.
At the core of the project was experimentation with the use of artificial intelligence in art history research, with a focus on the use of intelligent software functionalities (image recognition technologies) for iconographic research on the work of the Vašulkas. At the same time, various possibilities of visualizing the outputs of AI work were explored, including visualizing the pseudo-cognitive processes performed by the software. The outputs of the project can therefore be understood in the context of an emerging discipline - iconography in the age of artificial intelligence (Spratt, 2017: 12).
The main outputs of the project in terms of technological innovations are three software tools: two specially developed intelligent software tools for automatic recognition of visual (Sikora 2022) and audio (Miklánek 2022) objects in the works of the Vašulkas’ and an interactive web interface equipped with special features, which is fully implemented especially in the Machine Learning section of this website. The contents of the processed database, the process of preparing the dataset for machine learning, and the list of visual and audio categories that the intelligent software can search are described in the SOFTWARE section of the web.
Other outputs of the project relate to experimenting with the possibilities of accessing the content of the Vašulkas’ archive through various interfaces that reflect the outputs obtained by using intelligent tools. These outputs are brought together in the exhibition triptych Vašulka Live Archive / Interfaces.
The exhibition triptych Vašulka Live Archive / Interfaces has a dispersive character. Its components are situated in public space, virtual reality, and online. This solution was chosen regarding the stated goal – to apply a fluid approach to the design of the exhibition using the functionalities of software tools developed within the project.
When creating the exhibition concept, we defined the following parameters of the final format:
- To create an installation that can be placed in the space of The Vašulka Kitchen Brno for a long period of time, or that can be exhibited repeatedly.
- To organize an exhibition whose realization will not be jeopardized if the anti-pandemic measures are tightened.
- To propose an exhibition project that will both promote the work of the Vašulka family, collected in the archive managed by the Vašulka Kitchen Brno, and at the same time build on the creative poetics of this innovative artistic duo by also pointing to the properties of the technology used, in this case artificial neural networks.
- To embody the avant-garde ethos that characterizes the Vašulkas' work and to offer alternative modes of exhibition and reception compared to conventional gallery practice.
As the title Vašulka Live Archive / Interfaces suggests, this is not an exhibition of new paintings or remakes of Vašulkas' works, but various types of interfaces to the content of the Vašulka archive that have been developed within the project. These epistemological tools belong to a family of cultural forms that provide "new ways of accessing and manipulating information. Its techniques are hypermedia, databases, search engines, data mining, image processing, visualization, and simulation. “(Manovich, L. 2003: 23)
The triptych of interfaces consists of an online accessible website Machine Vision (fig. 1) providing a view of the work of artificial neural networks in the iconographic analysis of Vašulkas' videos, which is described in more detail in the Software section [SOFTWARE / subchapter Machine Vision], a large-format video mapping that brought the content of the archive into the public space and added a performative aspect to it (fig. 2), and fully immersive virtual reality (Fig. 3) providing an individual experience of immersion in the archive content.
The interactive large-format projection on the facade of the Brno House of Arts took place on 20 December 2021 (Horáková J. - Mucha, J. 2021), on the second anniversary of Woody Vašulka's death and the festive presentation of the VasulkaLiveArchive.net website. It was an exhibition of a performative character, which takes the form of an audiovisual work that can be re-performed at any time (see Fig. 1). In addition, the December screening was recorded as a freely available film documentation (Matusevich et al., 2022).
The Vasulka Live Archive videomapping was created from fragments of videos from the archive of Steina and Woody Vašulka, which were interwoven with visualizations of the analytical work of artificial neural networks. The result is a new work based on the remix aesthetic of the music video, whose compositional approach is analogous to the non-linear approach to archival content that is applied to the search for similar audio and visual motifs across the Vašulkas' work using artificial neural networks. It was therefore a result of a translation of the functional properties of intelligent software into the form of an audiovisual remix.
Curator: Jana Horáková
Directing and creative: Jiří Mucha
Motion designer: Tomáš Carda
Artificial Intelligence Program: Pavel Sikora, Štěpán Miklánek (using Lucid and TensorFlow library)
Sound post-production: Roman Ševčík
Rental and installation of projection equipment: David Zaorálek and David Šamánek (Spectrum Brands)
Technical support: Pavel Daněk (Brno House of Arts)
Obrázek 2: Vasulka Live Archive / Interfaces – videomapping.
Vasulka Live Archive / Interfaces – virtual reality
Another interface to the content of the Vašulka archive is a fully immersive virtual reality to which the functionalities of the Vasulka Live Archive website have been transferred. (Abdulvaliyev, 2021) This is an Android application that has been programmed in the Unity game engine. It uses stored information from the outputs of neural network models developed within the Vašulka Live Archive project and places previews of the Vašulkas’ works in a virtual 3D space. Virtual reality visitors can move around the space, trigger videos and rearrange them. The virtual reality interface is provided by the Oculus Quest 2 headset from Facebook Technologies (recently renamed Meta Quest 2 and the company to Meta. (see Figure 3).
Curator: Jana Horáková
Supervision: Pavel Sikora
Virtual reality: Chamit Abdulvaliyev
Obrázek 2: Vasulka Live Archive / Interfaces – videomapping.
Spratt, Emily L. (2017). Dream Formulations and Deep Neural Networks: Humanistic Themes in the Iconology of the Machine-Learned Image, in: Critical Approaches to Digital Art History, ed. by Angela Dressen and Lia Markey, in: kunsttexte.- de, Nr. 4, 2017 (15 pages).
edoc.hu-berlin.de/handle/18452/19403; DOI: 10.18452/18693
The website was implemented with the financial participation of the Technical Agency of the Czech Republic under the ÉTA programme. It is an output of the project Media Art Live Archive: Intelligent Interface for Interactive Mediation of Cultural Heritage (No. TL02000270). This website uses only functional cookies.