Encoding Futures: Critical Imaginaries of AI

September 16 - November 19, 2021

Every algorithm encodes a future.

Artificial intelligence structures the sociotechnical terrain of our present, and the human agents who train it shape political imaginaries of what is yet to come. From predictive policing to judicial risk assessment to border surveillance to automated hiring, the encoded biases of AI systems magnify existing structural inequities. Predictive models don’t forecast a world that might be: they reproduce the world depicted in their training data. They project worlds marked by algorithmic oppression (Safiya Noble), the New Jim Code (Ruha Benjamin), algorithmic violence (Mimi Ọnụọha), and algorithmic coloniality (Shakir Mohamed, Marie-Therese Png, & William Isaac).

Algorithmic worldmaking often unfolds in a “black box”: an opaque space of automated decision-making whose rationale is hidden from public view. Researchers and cultural workers are opening up the black box for scrutiny to imagine possibilities for feminist, antiracist, and decolonial AI. This exhibition assembles the work of artists who visualize the limits of our current algorithmic imaginaries, and envision speculative futures engineered for just outcomes.

Encoding Futures is co-curated by OXY ARTS and Mashinka Firunts Hakopian, Mellon Professor of the Practice at Occidental College.

This season was made possible by the Remsen Bird Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Lisa Coscino '85 OXY ARTS Program Fund.