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Ausstellungsrundgang «Virtual Beauty» am 21.07.2024 fällt aus (˚ ˃̣̣̥⌓˂̣̣̥ ) (ᵔ◡ᵔ) Wed & Fri: 12-6pm; Thu: 12-8pm; Sat & Sun: 12-5pm („• ᴗ •„) Effective immediately: New opening hours (´・ᴗ・ ` )

Simone C. Niquille
Elephant Juice

Simone C. Niquille, Elephant Juice, 2020, installation view «Real Feelings», 2020, Photo : Franz Wamhof

The 3D video animation Elephant Juice (2020) by Swiss artist Simone C. Niquille poses the question of the limits to the readability of human emotions through artificial intelligence. The title Elephant Juice ironically opens up the whole field of tension of the question: automated lip-reading systems translate "I love you" with the nonsense expression "Elephant Juice".

In a bathroom, a character prepares for an upcoming automated job interview, where she is recorded and analysed by AI. The words Elephant Juice appear on the fogged mirror in front of the figure. The mirror thus becomes a metaphor for the anonymous facelessness and arbitrary accuracy of the AI data processing system. From the perspective of the AI behind the mirror, the person's face no longer appears as a human countenance, but fragmented into coloured muscle zones whose contractions can be read and interpreted by the AI. Niquille is referring here to the increasing use of AI in job interviews, where character traits such as diligence or reliability are inferred by monitoring the microexpressions in the facial muscles of job applicants. In 1978, Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen presented a compendium of micro-expressions (Facial Action Coding System, FACS), which is still an important basis for police profiling, interrogation techniques and behavioural analysis. FACS has also been used for the more lifelike representation of emotions in animated films.

In a zoom-out we see the 3D model of the narrow bathroom, Niquille reveals the constructedness of her own visual world. Within this scenography is another protagonist: a bat hanging upside down from the pole of the blind in front of the window next to the shower. Based on Thomas Nagel's famous 1974 essay: What is it like to be a bat?, the childlike narrative voice, switched on as an additional meta-level, argues that despite all the information about a bat's brain and sensory organs, we as humans can never really know and understand what it is like to be a bat due to the lack of similarity between bats and humans. Niquille extrapolates this inability to the fundamental deficit of AI to really know and understand what it is like to feel human emotions. Elephant Juice, as Nagel had already described it, and as the narrative voice picks up again, is a plea to include the reality of what we don't know and can't understand in our worldview, and not to be limited by the limits of knowledge and understanding of AI.

Text: Bettina Back

Simone C. Niquille, Elephant Juice, 2020, video still
Simone C. Niquille, Elephant Juice, 2020, video still
Simone C. Niquille, Elephant Juice, 2020, video still
Title: Elephant Juice
Year: 2020
Format: Video, Digital Video
Material / Technology: 3D animation, stereo audio
Duration: 8:25
Acquisition: Acquired 2023, inv.no S0089