MARCO DONNARUMMA

Performing bodies, sounds and machines

Marco Donnarumma | peformance art and technology, sound art and body politics


MARCO
DONNARUMMA

Amygdala

An artificially intelligent (AI) prosthesis. Its only aim is to learn a purification ritual of “skin-cutting” found in animistic tribes, so it trains on its own body, endlessly.

Amygdala is a work in progress. Current version is MKI, updates will follow.

About the work

Amygdala MKI is an artificially intelligent (AI) robot in the form of an uncanny human-like limb exhibited in a glass box. Disturbing and yet sensual, its shape is that of a human-machine hybrid from a not too distant future. Amygdala‘s only skill is to learn how to perform a ritual of purification known as “skin-cutting”. This rite, found across tribes in locations across Papua New Guinea, Africa and Asia consists of cutting one’s skin in specific patterns. The robot teaches itself the cognitive and physical discipline required to perform the ritual by training different kinds of cutting on its own body. By combining a key symbol of human ancient history with the emblem of today’s technocratic society, Amygdala is a living, paradoxical symbol of human condition in late capitalism.

At first, rites of cleanliness and AI technology may seem antithetic. The former symbolise the primal human dedication and submission to deities, while the latter stands for the most recent human attempt to create new forms of life; that is, to attain the power of God. However, rites and AI technology do share a key role in the politics surrounding the human body. Rituals of cleanliness are one of the most ancient means of categorization of human bodies. Across animistic tribes, as well as religions, access to societal positions is granted or revoked following participation in particular rituals. In a similar and dangerous way, AI algorithms are used today to categorize human bodies and regulate their access to medical assistance, social welfare and criminal systems.

Amygdala – an AI robot learning how to perform purification rituals – collapses the historical and conceptual distance between ancient rituals and AI robotics. Can the machine purify itself by performing a ritual? What must it clean itself of? Is Amygdala a symbol of present capitalism or a relic from a future dystopia? By investigating the connections among cognitive robotics, ritual performance and artistic creation, this artistic and scientific project aims to illuminate the shady prospect of the increasingly technocratic regulation of human bodies we witness today.

Amygdala is part of “Configurations”, an ongoing 2-year project led by Marco Donnarumma unleashing the links between AI robotics, ritual performance and art. It is made possible by a close collaboration with the Neurorobotics Research Laboratory (DE) and Ana Rajcevic Studio (DE/UK).

Keywords: sculpture, prosthesis, artificial intelligence, robotics, purification ritual
Status: Currently a prototype. Final version in tour during 2017-2018

Amygdala photo gallery

  • Marco Donnarumma - Amygdala AI Robotics
  • Marco Donnarumma - Amygdala AI Robotics
  • Marco Donnarumma - Amygdala AI Robotics
  • Marco Donnarumma - Amygdala AI Robotics
  • Marco Donnarumma - Amygdala AI Robotics
  • Marco Donnarumma - Amygdala AI Robotics
  • Marco Donnarumma - Amygdala AI Robotics

Year of creation: Work in progress. MKI 2017-present
Technique: FPGA computer board, custom AI software (adaptive neural networks), servo motors, aluminium chassis, artificial skin (silicon, latex, wax), acrylic glass, wires, paint.
Duration: Endless
Dimensions: 120cm x 50cm x 40cm

Marco Donnarumma - Amygdala AI Robotics
Marco Donnarumma - Amygdala AI Robotics
Marco Donnarumma - Amygdala AI Robotics
Marco Donnarumma - Amygdala AI Robotics
Marco Donnarumma - Amygdala AI Robotics
Marco Donnarumma - Amygdala AI Robotics
Marco Donnarumma - Amygdala AI Robotics

Exhibitions

Salon fuer Aesthetische Experimente #2, Amygdala MKI preview, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2017

Credits

An artwork by Marco Donnarumma in collaboration with Neurobotics Research Laboratory and Ana Rajcevic Studio.

Marco Donnarumma – Concept, research, artistic direction and programming
Prof. Alberto de Campo – Additional programming and research
Rosalie Laurin – Exhibit and display box design
Dario J. Laganà – Photography
Berlin University of the Arts, Graduiertenschule – Funding
Einstein Stiftung – Funding
Berlin Center for Advanced Studies in Sciences and Arts – In kind support
Baltan Laboratories and Robot Love – In kind support / Dissemination