5-28 August 2023 Edinburgh Art Festival, Inspace, Edinburgh, UK
Our voices come from deep within our bodies, but once out, are they still ours? Detached from our bodies, they are different, transformed by the expectations, perceptions and interpretations of others. Deep fake voice cloning takes this a step further by replacing the very words we speak. This interactive installation brings the human body back into contact with voice clones to explore how feeling them vibrate through us changes our experience of them. An artificial agent interacts with you as you move around, prompting you to speak with phrases drawn from management training in “active listening,” and repeating what it ‘heard’ the previous visitor say in a voice cloned from them. When you speak it adds what it ‘thinks’ you say to their words and begins cloning your voice, repeating the stitched together phrase through the floor and into your body in a voice that becomes closer to yours every time you speak.
“All the boys ate fish” is a phrase involving all the mouth shapes needed to generate a deep fake. The phrase evokes both Lord of the Flies, a novel based on the deeply problematic notion that we are all naturally self-interested creatures prone to cruelty and violence when left to our own devices, and “the exquisite corpse drank the new wine,” the surrealist game in which meaning emerges collectively by piecing together parts of speech through a grammatical formula. This installation plays with these ideas about human nature, manipulation, absurdity and the algorithmic emergence of meaning to provocatively suggest the fraught nature of communication mediated by systems designed with a very limited concept of intelligence and a narrow set of interests in mind. It attempts to make an exquisite corpse from living bodies.