“Many years ago, I went to a witch who guided me through a shamanic trance to find my
inner temple and sacred weapons. When I got there it was a cave of black water on a
distant moon and my ‘weapons’ were a strand of bowel, a tumor with hair, blood clots,
and bits of brain. It’s always made me laugh. Years later Amazon recommended my own
book to me. These two events are of the most mystically uncanny of my life. I don’t
think we can talk about the mystical only in terms of transcendence. More often it’s a
state of anti-climax, body horror, confusion, doom, and dread, and it is precisely this
paradox that makes it mystical.”
GLUT (a superabundance of nothing), by Johanna Hedva, is an inquiry into the knowings and unknowings of embodiment. It is a sound work composed with divination and AI, which manifests as both an immersive physical installation and videogame. The core of GLUT is a sound composition made entirely of Hedva’s voice, ranging from its rawest expression of screams, to two AI vocal clones that, in order to trick the surveillance tactics embedded in AI, have been manipulated to sound ever more de-human.
Disturbed that proprietary vocal-clone software services reserve the right to sell client voice data to governments and corporations, Hedva worked with artist, musician, technologist, and writer Jessika Khazrik to deceive the software, training it with Hedva’s voice disguised through multiple vocoding processes. Hedva and Khazrik created two vocal clones: Arid and Mud, neither of which are made from an actual human voice and therefore not actual vocal clones. In GLUT, these two AI voices speak a text corpus that Hedva built over four lunar cycles, and synthesized through various divination techniques. The corpus is composed of the writings of medieval mystics (mostly of the apophatic tradition); theoretical physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers writing about black holes, dark matter, night, and nothingness; poets and novelists on sleep, music, and the voice; and the algorithm of amazon.com.
One of the provocations of GLUT is the question of whether Amazon, in predicting our desires and shaping our future, is our latest divining tool, a kind of contemporary mysticism.
The physical installation of Glut spatializes the sound in a subtly eerie, immersive room, large enough for one person only, which has been built into the existing architecture of the HKW Berlin. With a simple bench covered in Anti-Fatigue Foam (a material made specifically to trick workers into not noticing the exhaustion of their bodies), the installation draws on the dissociated “void room” settings in films like Get Out and Under the Skin, a little pocket of a universe that amplifies the limits of the body by simultaneously erasing them. The goal is not for the viewer to transcend the walls, but instead to feel them acutely. The sub woofer and some of the speakers are built into the bench, with the aim to rattle the bones of the viewer. It's a deceptive sensory deprivation chamber, a narrow closet in Hell.
In the Glut videogame, users are a teratoma avatar that drags itself through an environment cheating at non-Euclidean geometry through a series of nesting black holes, intestinal tunnels, glittering caves, and oceans of black water. The videogame is a digital experience that mirrors the physical installation while producing a world that disorients as much as it confirms what knowledges are available to the body.
The physical installation is not permanent nor wheelchair accessible, nor comfortable for some in light of COVID, nor for those with claustrophobia. Because of this Hedva developed the video game, with sign language versions in both ASL and BSL, as well as audio description, which will be available indefinitely. All aspects of the digital version, including accessibility features and this website, were produced by Shape Arts as part of the Adam Reynolds Award Programme, supported by Arts Council England and Garfield Weston Foundation.
In all of its iterations, GLUT is rooted in the premise that AI has existed long before computers in the forms of divination and mysticism, and following this premise, GLUT asks what, how, and where we can know and un-know what we think we do.
- Johanna Hedva—concept, direction, vocal performances, divination, and texts
- Jessika Khazrik—sound and speech co-conspirator, score composition and production, machine learning and mixing
- Hot Knife Digital Media—game development
- Johannes Beck—visual co-conspirator and architect of physical installation
- Sam Lavigne—website
- Everest Pipkin, Sam Lavigne, Casey Reas, Jessika Khazrik—AI consultation
- Andy Healy—production consultation
- Candace Davider—American Sign Language
- Nikki Champagnie Harris—British Sign Language
Supported by Shape Arts, HKW Berlin, Arts Council England, and Garfield Weston Foundation.