Encoding Futures: Critical Imaginaries of AI

Oxy Arts
Co-Curated with Oxy Arts and Meldia Yesayan
September 16 – November 19, 2021

Every algorithm encodes a future.

Artificial intelligence structures the sociotechnical terrain of our present, and the human agents who train it shape political imaginaries of what is yet to come. From predictive policing to judicial risk assessment to border surveillance to automated hiring, the encoded biases of AI systems magnify existing structural inequalities. Predictive models don’t forecast a world that might be: they reproduce the world depicted in their training data. They project worlds marked by algorithmic oppression (Safiya Noble), the New Jim Code (Ruha Benjamin), algorithmic violence (Mimi Ọnụọha), and algorithmic coloniality (Shakir Mohamed, Marie-Therese Png, & William Isaac).

Algorithmic worldmaking often unfolds in a “black box”: an opaque space of automated decision-making whose rationale is hidden from public view. Researchers and cultural workers are opening up the black box for scrutiny to imagine possibilities for feminist, antiracist, and decolonial AI. This exhibition assembles the work of artists who visualize the limits of our current algorithmic imaginaries, and envision speculative futures engineered for just outcomes.

Exhibiting artists include: Algorithmic Justice League, Stephanie Dinkins, Aroussiak Gabrielian, Maya Ganesh, Suzanne Kite, Lauren Lee McCarthy, Niama Safia Sandy, Caroline Sinders, Astria Suparak, and Mandy Harris Williams.

The exhibition is staged in conjunction with Encoding Futures: Speculative Monuments for LA, a 3-month virtual residency program at Oxy Arts. Over the residency period, artists Nancy Baker-Cahill, Audrey Chan, Joel Garcia with Meztli Projects and Patrick Martinez researched and developed original virtual monuments to be geo-located at sites across Los Angeles. The monuments will be accessible for the public to view through the 4th Wall app. The prompt for the residency was to conceive a blueprint for a site-specific imagined future, and consider technologically enabled transformations that might shape the future of the chosen site. The artists considered past and present social, economic, and cultural inequities, power imbalances, and other forms of subjection, with the hope of foregrounding a radically equitable future sited in an emergent present.

Exhibition programming includes: a campus-wide talk by Safiya Umoja Noble; workshops by Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and Feminist AI; a symposium co-organized with Fernando Diaz; and a lecture-performance by Mandy Harris Williams.


Image Features Detail from  Astria Suparak’s Asian futures, without Asians series, with image from Ghost in the Shell, 2020-Present.