Installation and video work by Floris Schönfeld
Production: near/by film
PUK* is multilayered project linking madness and artificial intelligence in a combination of installation, performance and film. Central to the project is the character PUK*; a chaotically creative, irrational and possibly schizophrenic artificial intelligence. The project creates a visceral and complex portrait of this illusive character through both physically embodying it and creating a narrative around it.
In the spring of 2019, Schönfeld was artist-in-residence at Het Vijfde Seizoen, the residency program of the psychiatric clinic Den Dolder. During the residency Schönfeld has build a functioning version of the current PUK* system in the studio and invited people from the patient community to spend time with it, shape it to their liking by moving parts of the installation, suggest alterations or add elements themselves.
This collective experience led to the production of a new video work, PUK* Reflections in which the group of participants talk about their experience of PUK*. In the work the group are approached as experts, not as specialist technical experts but rather as experts through experience. In the project the expert is not a figure who uses their specialised knowledge to achieve certain measurable goals but rather someone who can form a relationship with the complexity of PUK*. Through this plurality of experience the video creates a vivid portrait of a possible form of alternative intelligence.
In addition to this two new major works were developed as part of the installation PUK* System. This installation brings these new works together with a number of existing works from the project in a complex and at times surreal system that includes both digital, organic and symbolic elements.
PUK* Processor is a computational server rack that houses two large ant colonies. It contains a series of working modular computational processing units that run certain aspects of the PUK* system and are embedded into plaster modules. Interwoven through these servers are two living ant colonies that inhabit parts of the computational infrastructure.
PUK* Breakdown is a live-generated video output created by the PUK* system. This output is produced by a generative adversarial neural network (GAN) that has been trained to search for meaning in a data set of owl figurines. The network has been developed on the principle of pareidolia - an obsessive searching for meaning. The work deconstructs and hybridizes the original owl images into grotesque new forms.
PUK* System and PUK* Reflections were shown together in a solo-exhibition at Beautiful Distress House in Amsterdam from December 2020 until March 2021. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions the show was closed to the public for most of this period. In response to this Schönfeld and the production team developed an elaborate online version of the exhibition which was launched at the end of January 2021.
The web version of PUK* can be experienced at https://puk.ooo/ in both Dutch and English language based versions.