09 July 2022
A robotic performance on the evolution of AI and the future of interspecies relationships
BOAR is a site-specific robotic performance by artist Federico Díaz and novelist and technologist J. M. Ledgard as part of the 12th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art.
Experts estimate that some 5000 wild boars live in Berlin. These feral animals thrive in the city’s outside districts and the outlying Brandenburg region. Since the 1990s, Berlin’s wild boar population has surged, with the animals now exploring new urban territories. This growth is attributed to a decline in traditional hunting clubs as well as more hospitable living conditions created by global warming, plentiful food waste and monoculture crops. Even Berliners who have not personally encountered a boar are familiar with their notorious behaviours, such as stealing human picnics and digging in gardens and parks, often churning up the turf and soil.
This human-animal relationship is where BOAR, an LAS-commissioned project, picks up. Díaz and Ledgard explore the role that artificial intelligence (AI) can play in reconciling human beings and the natural world. Responding to a dearth of research on the relationship between AI and non-human ecosystems, Díaz and Ledgard began investigating how future forms of machine intelligence may seek to know and imitate other biological life forms.
Following this interest, Díaz and Ledgard adapted the robot “Spot“ developed by Boston Dynamics to imitate wild boar. While these animals hunt grubs and insects by detecting subterranean vibrations, the robotic boar mimics this behaviour within a limited patch of greenery. Through AI, it locates simulated data sources emerging from its territory. These sources are visible to viewers as data clouds that can be seen through an augmented reality app, operable on various devices: smartphone and tablets that convey the AI boar’s virtual data landscape. This performance takes place in what Díaz refers to as the super territory – a conceptualized space wherein the biological and the technological merge. Incorporating aspects of the wild boar’s natural habitat, such as grass and soil, Díaz’s and Ledgard’s work provides a multi-sensory engagement with questions about the evolution of AI and interspecies relationships.
Díaz and Ledgard's project suggests that AI might generate positive possibilities for coexistence. For example, AI can help us to navigate the natural world’s otherwise overwhelming complexity. BOAR’s timing is crucial. While the climate crisis presents an imminent threat to life on earth, machines are attaining conscious agency.
‘As a young Berlin institution, we are committed to dreaming, experimenting and risk-taking to build bridges between art, science and the latest technologies for a future-led discourse within society. In this respect, BOAR and the work of Díaz who is known as an archaeologist of potential future scenarios, fit perfectly into our vision of merging disciplines and opening paths for research, networking and exchange.’
– Bettina Kames, Director LAS
Since the 1990s, Díaz has been using new media to reveal immaterial aspects of our natural environment imperceptible to human senses. He is equally considered a forerunner in the hybridisation of robotics and art. His recent projects explore the relationship between nature, humans and machines equipped with advanced AI.
Ledgard has developed futuristic AI and robotics projects and has lectured widely; at ETH Zürich, Imperial College, MIT, and the Institute of Advanced Studies. His novels often focus on non-human species and contrast the steadiness of nature with the flux of human life.
Saturday 9 July 2022
3:30 pm / 5:00 pm / 6:30 pm
Duration: 20 minutes
backyard of Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin
J. M. Ledgard
FEDERICO DÍAZ BOAR, 2022
Robotic performance conceived in collaboration with J. M. Ledgard
Commissioned by LAS (Light Art Space)