Unlearning Language

“Is it possible to find new understandings of language, undetectable to algorithms? In this project we use performance and interactive tactics to explore that possibility, particularly in a time of pervasive AI surveillance.” 

- Lauren Lee McCarthy

Unlearning Language is an interactive installation and performance project created by the artists Lauren Lee McCarthy and Kyle McDonald in collaboration with InterLab at the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media in Yamaguchi, Japan. The project aims to provoke new understandings of language that are undetectable to algorithms. It consists of two parts: an interactive installation for up to eight people, and an interactive opening performance for an audience. The opening performance provides a backstory for the installation, prompting the audience to interact with one another and with the performers. In the installation, participants are guided by an AI that aims to train humans to be less machine-like. The AI intervenes with light, sound, and vibration as the participants communicate, and the group must work together to find new ways to communicate that are undetectable to an algorithm. Through playful experimentation, the participants reveal their most human qualities, distinguishing themselves from machines. The desire to become less machine-like may seem at odds with the underlying use of AI, but it is only through participating in this immersive world that we can discover if the aspiration of unlearning has been met.