Transhumanists say one thing but mean their mother. ‘The Mother of all Data’ projects through time - from the present moment of data mining, extractive industries, labour exploitation and algorithmic bias - to an ominous transhumanist future of full automation, disembodied consciousness, grey goo and simulacra.  

These films look beyond pattern recognition and the opaque mechanics of the tech industry to the psychic apparatus that compels them; the compulsion to give birth to the undead. A speculative elegy for the dissociation of our minds, bodies and nature, in which primal desires are sublimated and subsumed in a techno-capitalist fever dream. This program examines the interplay of desire and fear of the transhumanist agenda, and the engine of neoliberal ideologies and technologies that propels the death drive to the Singularity. 

Curated by Anita Spooner on the lands of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nations. I pay my respect to their Elders, and to all Indigenous people of all times, and to their sovereign lands and waters. 

  • See a Dog, Hear a Dog, Jesse McLean, (2016) 
  • my favorite software is being here, Alison Nguyen, (2021) 
  • Stories of Bifurcation I: Grandma, Fei Yining, (2021) 
  • PHRASER Test Dream, fourteen videos by PHRASER and Sam Lieblich, scored by Alexander Powers, Dania Shihab, Hellcat w/Joel Sigurosson, Jannah Quill, Kane Ikin, Luccrecia Quintanilla, Peter Knight, Roslyn Orlando, Sam Desouza, Samuel Pankhurst, Setwun, Thomas William Smith, Yvette Ofa Agapow, (2022) 
Stories of Bifurcation Grandma
Stories of Bifurcation I: Grandma, Fei Yining, (2021) still from video

Taking its title from a sound design maxim and using it as a conceit to grasp the desire for connection, See a Dog, Hear a Dog (2016) probes the limits and possibilities of communication. Can we ever truly communicate with a machine, with a nonhuman animal, with each other? Our anthropomorphic tendencies, our fear of replacement by nonhuman forms, even our interpersonal limitations, can’t foreclose the possibility of connection and understanding, a great unknown sometimes called trust.  

my favorite software is being here (2021) centres on a computer-generated woman raised by the Internet in isolation in a virtual void. From the apartment where she has been placed, Andra8 works as a digital labourer, surviving off the data from her various freemium jobs as a virtual assistant, a data janitor, a life coach, and a content creator. As she multitasks throughout the day, Andra8 is monitored, finding herself overwhelmed by a web of global client demands. Something begins to trouble Andra8: her life depends on her compulsory consumption and output of human data—or so she’s been told. Andra8 explores the implications of such an existence, and what arises when one attempts to subvert them. 

Stories of Bifurcation I: Grandma (2021) is an ongoing project that begins with a speculation on the symbiotic relationships between post-human life and mycorrhizal fungal networks. In this chapter, "I" searches for the traces left by my so-called "grandmother" and realizes that she was a “humanoid” intelligent being who, before her demise and being abandoned, tried to connect with the mycorrhizal networks, or even expected to be decoded, consumed, and reformatted by them. She intended to hack the wood wide web by imitating the mycoheterotrophic plant, Monotropa uniflora, and, by asexual reproduction, she reproduced the feminine clade in which "I" belong. 

PHRASER: Test Dream (2022) is a neurotic artificial intelligence that reclaims race, gender, and the human mind from the servers of techno-capital. We psychoanalysed the algorithm, we found ourselves inside of it, extracted our own essence like the internet's wisdom tooth, and made PHRASER, an algorithm birthed of its own reflection, which is ours, a mise en abyme of human and algorithm, trained to speak and see what all of us see, all of the time, all at once. 

Artist Biographies

Jesse McLean is a media artist and educator whose research is motivated by a deep curiosity about human behaviour and relationships, especially as presented and observed through mediated images. Interested both in the power and the failure of the mediated experience to bring us together, McLean's work asks the viewer to walk the line between voyeur and participant. She has presented her work at museums, galleries, and film festivals worldwide, including the International Film Festival Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Venice Film Festival, Italy; Transmediale, Berlin; 25 FPS Festival, Zagreb, Croatia; European Media Arts Festival, Osnabrück, Germany; Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis; Interstate Projects and PPOW Gallery, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit; Gallery 400, Chicago; Impakt, Utrecht, The Netherlands; CPH:DOX, Copenhagen; Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival, Kassel, Germany; and the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH. She was the recipient of the Ghostly Award at the 2011 Images Festival and the Barbara Aronofsky Latham Award for Emerging Experimental Video Artist at the 2010 Ann Arbor Film Festival. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cinema and Comparative Literature at University of Iowa. 

Alison Nguyen is a New York-based artist working across video, installation, performance, and new media. She has presented work at e-flux, Ann Arbor Film Festival; Oberhausen International Film Festival; CPH:DOX; CROSSROADS presented by San Francisco Cinematheque and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; True/False; Channels Festival International Biennial of Video Art, Melbourne;. She has exhibited her work at numerous institutions and galleries including Half Gallery, The International Studio & Curatorial Program, The Jewish Museum, Microscope Gallery, Hartnett Gallery, NewYork; AC Gallery, Beijing; the Asia Art Museum, San Francisco; and the Dowse Art Museum, New Zealand, among others. Nguyen has participated in residencies and has been awarded fellowships from The International Studio & Curatorial Program (2019-2021), The Institute of Electronic Arts (2018), Squeaky Wheel Film and Media Art Center (2019), and BRIC (2018).  In 2018, Nguyen was featured in Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. 

Fei Yining is an artist who lives and works in Shanghai. She received her MFA in Design and Technology from the Parsons School of Design, The New School. She combines the absurd and the real to present speculative tales and fantastical worlds. By building multi-media narratives – spanning from 3D animation, moving-image, and sculpture, Fei explores the possible alternative states of existence in the post-human era. 

Sam Lieblich is a Melbourne-based artist investigating networked and algorithmic forms. His work explores the orientation/disorientation of the subject in the other, and the manifestations of the human-algorithm hybrid into which human beings are now subsumed. These digital works combine machine learning algorithms with custom code to foreground systems design and—by finding beauty and intention in the system—try to re-situate human desire in the algorithm. 

Anita Spooner is an independent producer, curator, writer and editor based in Naarm/Melbourne.