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Language + Machine

By xLab

The language of the machine can feel foreign and distant – an illegible series of 0s and 1s. What if our communication with its language were different? What if we explored new ways of interfacing and interacting with it?

This collection of work explores different aspects of the machine and its language. Future Memories renders the statistical element and nature of its language, into poetic and tactile writings. Self(Encoded) peels back the layers of image processing and reveals what the machine views along its process of decoding and encoding the information. Virga translates human movement into an experience of transient communication with the machine, where light and movement become the language of communication between the human and the machine.


Jamel Shabazz grew up on the streets of Red Hook, Brooklyn and since picking up his first camera at the age of fifteen, he has been visually representing urban life in New York. He has made a name for himself by capturing some of the most aura-induced and iconic images of the ’80s, depicting a time of transition and the emergence of a new lifestyle and culture whose relevance still resonates today.

As one of the key people to immortalize New York over recent decades, Shabazz’s quintessential and mesmerizing work continues to influence international fashion trends and global youth culture to this day.

Street Photography, Paris, Les Halles, Streetwear, Mohamed Bourouissa, Black Teenage Girls in Paris, Exhibition at The Gallery at VCUarts Qatar
Mohamed Bourouissa with Anoushkashoot, 'Nous sommes Halles', 2002-2005, series of color and black and white photographs, various medium, variable sizes ©Mohamed Bourouissa ADAGP

The 'Caillera'

Nous sommes Halles paints a portrait of a generation, that of the ‘caillera,’ a subculture of the early 2000s, with which he grew up. The series gives an account of caillera codes, identity and history at a moment when it begins to disappear.

Its members subvert the bourgeois norms of the Lacoste sportswear brand to invent their own style, against the grain of the preppy billboards with the alligator logo. In their own way, the caillera seem to have embraced the motto of the brand’s creator, tennis player René Lacoste: “Without style, playing and winning are not enough.”

In a similar vein, the children of hip-hop—then those of voguing—had appropriated the fashions of the time to reinvent themselves, wearing Kangol bucket hats, Gazelle sunglasses, Adidas shell toe shoes, and other attributes of a recomposed community which allowed its members, coming from low-income families, to break through the wall of invisibility hemming them in.

To people confined to the social peripheries, being part of a community opens access to a form of solidarity, recognition and creates a sense of belonging and collective pride. By shifting our perspective, Mohamed Bourouissa proposes another image of the banlieue, inviting us to rethink its identity.

Return to the exhibition page here

Future Memories
Sand, metal sphere, Materials?

Future Memories is a writing device that uses sand as a recording medium and a metal sphere as a writing tool. This installation refers strongly to the habit of writing sentences on beaches and alike. Words are engraved in the sandy surface, and quickly disappear thanks to the agents of the sea or weather.

Event prediction is the capability to estimate the possibility that some event may occur in the future. Studying statistics and past records renders the prediction of the occurrence of certain events and situations particularly reliable. However, often these predictions are delivered as numeric chances that an event will occur again. Future Memories transforms that somewhat cold and impersonal information into personal and intimate sentences that seem to describe mundane or exceptional events, and their emotional impact on our daily lives.

Slowly delivered on sand by a seemingly invisible force, the forecasts make it look like our lives have already been lived, while we simply wait for things to happen. Will you believe the machine, or act upon it’s prediction?

Machine vision camera, screens

As you enter this recursive conversation with the machine, your facial features feed the loop with new data, reflected back as a fragmented array of frames, revealing how the machine processes the incoming stream of information through different layers of encoding. 

In the same way our brain filters what we see and only remembers what it deems important, the machine compresses visual information, disregarding data redundancy in a dogmatic pursuit of efficiency. We expose the material data, shedding layers of resolution, levels of recognition, from pixels to language. When does the loss of information render the signal illegible for the human? When does it become illegible for the machine?

Steam-bent ash, PETG, cotton

Virga is the outcome of the 2022 MFA Field Study, a collection of glowing sculptural forms made from steam-bent wood, 3D-printed connectors, LED lights and tailored fabric. The bent wood components that lend each lamp its distinctive form were designed by students and faculty from the MFA in Design program and produced during an immersive workshop with Atelier La Juntana, a teaching and fabrication facility located on the north coast of Spain. Inspired by virga cloud formations–clouds found in hot climates, characterized by trailing streaks of rain that evaporate before reaching the ground – the project invites free association, fosters reverie, and inspires imaginative speculation. The project’s kinetic installation and interactive lighting were designed and made possible by xLab.

MFA in Design: 
Faculty: Marco Bruno, Giovanni Innella, Stella Colaleo, Reema Abu Hassan

Students: Ayah Elnour, Gabrielle Tesfaye, Somaia Dorzadeh, Sidra Sohail, Steffi Braganza, Tasnim Rahimah, Tharwa Dalansi, Adriane de Souza, Destarte Prieto, Hind Al Saad, Mashael Almulseh, Moom Thahinah, Naima Almajdobah, Sara Alafifi

Atelier La Juntana:
Daniel Gutiérrez Adán, Armor Gutiérrez Rivas, Nertos Gutiérrez Rivas


Computational Design

FEB–APR 2023
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