MEDIA ART LIVE ARCHIVE: Intelligent interface for interactive mediation of cultural heritage

The project Media Art Live Archive: Intelligent Interface for Interactive Mediation of Cultural Heritage responds to the dynamic changes in archival and museum practice as a result of the global trend of digitization of cultural heritage, especially the ongoing digitization of artwork archives and their online accessibility. However, it is not limited to the organisation of archival content using traditional library tools, but 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 machine or deep learning artificial neural networks in the analysis of the audiovisual works of Steina and Woody Vasulka and the development of interfaces for the interactive mediation of the archival content of their works in online and offline environments.

The Vasulka archive, which is owned by the Vasulka Kitchen Brno at the Brno House of Arts, has been processed in this way and they are involved in the project as application guarantors and recipients of the resulting outputs. 

The experimentation with the use of artificial intelligence in art history research was at the core of the project, focusing on the use of intelligent software functionalities (image recognition technologies) for iconographic research on the work of the Vasulkas. At the same time, various possibilities of visualizing the outputs of AI work were explored, including the visualization of the pseudo-cognitive processes performed by the software.

The main outputs of the project, in terms of technological innovation, are three pieces of software: two specially developed software tools for automatic recognition of visual and sound objects in Vasulka's work and a specially equipped interactive web interface, which is fully implemented especially in the Machine Learning section of this website.

Other outputs of the project relate to experimenting with the possibilities of making the content of the Vasulka archive accessible through different interfaces that reflect the outputs obtained by using intelligent tools. These include the exhibition triptych Vasulka Live Archive / Interfaces, which includes the online accessible website Machine Vision / Machine Vision providing a glimpse of the work of artificial neural networks in the iconographic analysis of Vasulka's videos, large-scale video mapping that brought the content of the archive into the public space and added a performative aspect to it, and fully immersive virtual reality providing an individual experience of immersion in the content of the archive directly in the gallery. 

The website of the project

It is an interactive installation located on the main page of the Vasulka Live Archive website, which is accessible online by any Internet user. This interface has an aesthetic and educational function. It has been specially developed in order to emphasize the specific poetics of Vasulka's work, which is captured by the title Machine Vision, which manifests itself in Vasulka's work through the motif of a mirror ball providing a 360-degree image of its surroundings, or through the rapid movement of a camera rotating around its axis, blurring images of the surrounding environment, or through apparatuses (e.g. Allvision, Machine Visioin) combining a rotating camera and the mirrored surfaces of the ball, in an attempt to capture the 'objective' reception of the machine. Images of Vasulka's videos are mapped onto the shape of the sphere, each of which can be simultaneously tracked as if through the receptive apparatus of a neural network, through several layers of decomposition to the output of identifying the objects in the frame. The inspiration for this visualization came from projects aimed at developing innovative interfaces for presenting the output of artificial intelligence work, with the aim of familiarizing the general public with its functionalities, and thus contributing to general literacy in the field of artificial intelligence, particularly artificial neural networks.

The exhibition Vasulka Live Archive / Interfaces

The exhibition triptych has a dispersive character. The individual outputs can be viewed asynchronously, in a public space, in a gallery or online. This solution was chosen with regard to the stated goal – to apply a fluid approach to the design of the exhibition, using the functionalities of the software tools developed within the project. 

Photo: Barbora Trnková, Vašulka Kitchen Brno 2022

Virtual reality Vasulka Kitchen Archive / Interfaces

A fully immersive virtual reality was created especially for use in the interior of the Vasulka Kitchen Brno gallery, into which the functionalities of the Vasulka Live Archive website were transferred.  The virtual environment thus provides the visitor with the experience of a 'cybernaut' diving into the exhibition space of Vasulka Kitchen Brno, into which the Machine Vision section of the website is mapped, and the free space of the universe in which the videos are placed as space bodies. The videos can be manipulated (moved, zoomed in, zoomed out, enlarged or reduced) and played back.

Curators: Jana Horáková, Jiří Mucha  
Post-production of audiovisual materials.  
Artificial intelligence and visualization program: Pavel Sikora, Štěpán Miklánek (using Lucid and TensorFlow library)  
Web design: Dušan Barok  
Virtual reality: Chamit Abdulvaliyev

Photo: Barbora Trnková, Vašulka Kitchen Brno 2022

Videomapping Vasulka Live Archive

The interactive large-format projection on the facade of the Brno House of Arts took place on 20 December 2021, on the occasion of the second anniversary of Woody Vasulka's death. (LINK...) It was an exhibition of a performative nature, which takes the form of an audiovisual work that can be re-performed at any time. 

Videomapping Vasulka Live Archive was created from fragments of videos from the archive of Steina and Woody Vasulka, 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 that is somewhat analogous to the non-linear approach to archive content that is applied to the search for similar audio and visual motifs across the Vasulka's work using artificial neural networks. It was therefore in effect a translation of the functional properties of intelligent software into the language of film editing. 

Directing and Creative: Jiří Mucha 
Motion designer. 
Pavel Sikora, Štěpán Miklánek (using the Lucid library and TensorFlow) 
Roman Ševčík 
Rental and installation of projection equipment: David Zaorálek and David Šamánek (Spectrum Brands) 
Technical support: Pavel Daněk (Brno House of Arts) 

Ilustrační obrázek_Vasulka Live Archive_Videomapping

Photo: Dominik Hungr

Media Art Live Archive is realized with the financial help of Technology Agency of the Czech Republic. The Centre of New Media Art – Vasulka Kitchen Brno is a guarantor of the project. Other partners are Brno Art House and TIC Gallery in Brno. The Vasulka Kitchen Brno's program is supported by the Ministry of Culture of Czech Republic and the Statutory City of Brno. 

Ilustrační obrázek_loga sponzorů