Art Collecting

The Art Gallery of WA’s new Asian arts initiative opens with a dramatic fast-fashion performance | Pro Club Bd

A partnership to bring contemporary Asian art to Perth has begun with an “awkward” investigation into the treatment of textile workers.

It also explores the extent to which artificial intelligence (AI) is shaping our lives.

On July 22, Bangkok-based artist Kawita Vatanajyankur wrapped herself in red yarn on a large wand-strewn stage on the first floor of the Art Gallery of WA (AGWA) and used her body to “knit” the yarn around the wands. a live performance entitled Mental Machine: Labor in the Self Economy.

“The work focuses on working in the fast fashion industry [and] how textile workers are treated like machines,” Vatanajyankur said.

“[In a previous work] I used myself as this machine to knit a fabric, a tube, and then I realized that making knits is like a form of creation and production.

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Kawita Vatanajyankur performs Mental Machine: Labor in the Self Economy at AGWA.

During the performance, Vatanajyankur is faced with a choice – if she unravels herself, she is free, but there is nothing either, her work is nullified.

“Scary” level of artificial intelligence

Vatanajyankur says her appearance on AGWA has an extra layer that is “very scary”.

She is guided by two AI-created versions of herself on screen engaging in conversation to lead her onto the stage.

Both AIs, developed in collaboration with Pat Pataranutaporn of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, were programmed to have their face and voice and were trained with their personal data.

An overview of Vatanajyankur lying on a white stage with yarns attached to various poles like a net.
Vatanajyankur wants viewers to think about the extent to which they are also being manipulated by algorithms and machine learning.(Includes: Art Gallery of Western Australia)

Each AI has been programmed to believe in a different philosophy – one in the value of total freedom, another in that oppression can be a source of creativity.

“[They have] Conversations on the issues of oppression and freedom, the importance of rules and orders,” Vatanajyankur said.

The piece not only comments on the conditions of low-wage workers in the fast fashion industry, but also invites viewers to reflect on the extent to which they are also being manipulated by algorithms and machine learning.

“Our decisions are pretty much based on the decisions we are given because they study us, our activities, what we search for, our personal data.

“Our thoughts are dedicated to these algorithms.”

New orientation of the State Gallery

Vatanajyankur’s dramatic performance on July 22 signaled the start of a new initiative at AGWA, a private partnership that established an institute for contemporary Asian art.

The institute is a five-year initiative supported by the charitable foundation of Perth businessman Simon Lee. The aim of the institute is to support the careers of currently practicing artists and to introduce the work to WA audiences.

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