Support Material (1)
Works in development
interactive 'text-to-bird-speech' translator (prototype)
collaboration with Xavier Burrow
Access interactive prototype here: https://xavierburrow.com/myna/dist/
This prototype was built with coding assistance from Xavier Burrow. Technically, this work is mostly complete, however the final presentation (i.e. its GUI or Graphic User Interface) will be more stylised, immersive and interactive than the browser-based and visually-neutral form it currently has. This will require a number of days work collaborating with Xavier Burrow in order to update it to a finished state.
This is how the device was constructed: First, I recorded several hours of recordings of Common Myna birds calling throughout Naarm/Melbourne. I then combed through these recordings and manually isolated 44 uniquely individual ‘acoustic units’, each ranging usually between 0.25 to 0.35 seconds in length. I did this by ear and by eye (using a spectrogram) Most of these units are quite distinct from one another, with a few resembling each other a little more closely (e.g. e and ʊəʳ) although none are identical. This matches English, where many phonemes do closely resemble one another (e.g. v and f) I then arbitrarily paired each of these 44 Myna sounds with a corresponding English phoneme, using the International Phoneme Alphabet as a guide. With only 44 phonemes, English speakers are able to achieve an essentially limitless level of communication and meaning. This device allows you to input English text and output it as a stream of Myna calls; as stated in the project description, it does not presume to allow for meaningful conversation with the Common Myna, but instead it points to the inherent complexity of Common Myna speech by drawing parallels between the acoustic structure of their vocalisations and the phonemic construction of human language.
a planned collaboration with Peter Blain
I plan to collaborate with Peter Blain to create a work which facilitates real-time verbal conversations between audiences and a state-of-the-art, artificially-intelligent chatbot. Currently, chatbots can only be interacted with via text chat. In this unique work, the audience will be able speak aloud and have their words translated into text via speech recognition software; this will then be transmitted instantly to the chatbot who will reply in real-time via text-to-voice synthesis, emulating an everyday verbal conversation. In addition to this, the chatbot will be pre-trained on a particular dataset and given certain ‘personality modifiers’ which will add humour to the work while also opening a door to critical inquiry and revealing some of the dangers and ethical quandaries inherent to Artificial Intelligence, a human-forged yet eerily non-human species which we will be grappling to communicate with for centuries to come.
The Zebra Finch
a work in development
December 2022 to January 2023 will be a period for developing and assembling a new work using research and materials gathered during a residency with Watch This Space ARI, located in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) in October 2022. This planned residency will be oriented around the Zebra Finch, a complex being with many fascinating behaviours. Due to its short breeding cycle and resilience, the Zebra Finch is easily bred in captivity, making it one of the most highly studied bird species in the world. In particular, it has become a popular specimen in contemporary neuroscientific research, with universities worldwide housing and studying the Zebra Finch in order to comprehend unsolved neurological questions. Developments in this field have led to a point where scientists studying the neurology of the Zebra Finch are being recruited by Silicon Valley in order to advance research in fields such as Artificial Intelligence, Large Language Models and Brain-Machine Interfacing.
Currently, thousands of individual Zebra Finches live and perish in laboratories across the globe, giving their lives without consent in order to advance the ambitions of human scientific endeavour. The story of the Zebra Finch has captured my attention: over the years, my practise has placed an emphasis on revealing the unique agency of non-human creatures while drawing attention to our responsibility towards these lifeforms as caretakers in a world that is rapidly changing and degrading.
The Zebra Finch holds a highly relevant place within the overall themes of my exhibition, 'Uttering & Earthly,' at Goolugatup Heathcote; recent scientific findings have demonstrated that there is an acoustic richness in Zebra Finch vocalizations that is available to them but which is out of reach for human listeners. In this work, one of my primary creative ambitions will be to share the complex vocalisations of the Zebra Finch to create a didactic and immersive experience which catalyses audience empathy, dissolves the human-animal linguistic hierarchy, and raises awareness about the plight of the Zebra Finch species worldwide.