Alien Probes, Archaeological Ambiguities, And Un-forgetting Machines

Photo credit: Tan Hai Han

Date: 1 Mar 2016, Tuesday
Time: 12.30pm – 1.30pm
Venue: Objectifs
Admission: Free

Alien Probes,
Archaeological Ambiguities,
And Un-forgetting Machines

Debbie Ding speaks about her recent project The Library of Pulau Saigon, an "unforgetting machine" for artefacts found on Pulau Saigon. This machine generates prototypes from the artefacts with the same name and archives them through 3D printing. It enables changes in artefacts' craftsmanship to be mapped and allows us to explore theories through rapid prototyping.

“The Library of Pulau Saigon” is a speculative project exploring how we can
work together with philosophical machines to investigate gaps in human

Pulau Saigon is a former island in the Singapore River, which vanished
around the 1980s. As an artist I was intrigued by the apparent lack of
information about Pulau Saigon, as there are scant few public records about
Pulau Saigon in Singapore’s National Archives, although it was the former site
of a railway station, an abattoir, and several warehouses.

In 1988, a rescue dig was conducted at this post-eighteenth century
archaeological site. By that point the site had been disturbed so many times
that the oldest items were on top rather than the bottom. The artefacts
recovered from this site also contain a list of mass-produced, everyday
objects – speculated to have been litter from passerbys.

I wanted to attempt to “ressurect” these archaeological ambiguities, so I
began building a prototype for an “un-forgetting” machine, which produces
objects from their names. Parametric models are generated using deep
learning, shape recognition, 3D shape interpolation, and generative CAD
modelling. Each object is designed to be the perfect sum average of all other
objects with the same name.

The machine attempts to perform the creative and cognitive role of cultural
craftsmanship on our behalf, producing a library of mutating cultural objects,
exploring infinite sets of variations within a fixed set of rules.

With rapid prototyping, they do not have to be just thought experiments, but
can be translated into material experiments, allowing us to explore theories
through prototypes.

If we could teach machines to understand our world and to extrapolate
philosophical and visual ideas for us, they could be used to bring
contradictions to our attention, creating new connections and provoking new
debates about our pasts, present, and potential futures.

Debbie Ding Biography

Debbie Ding (b. 1984) is a visual artist, designer and creative technologist living between Singapore and London. She facilitates the Singapore Psychogeographical Society, which is devoted to promoting a better understanding of the world through ludic adventures, independent research, digital documentation, and data/archival activism. She is interested in producing prototypes of philosophical machines and objects that attempt to translate theory or phenomena into other experiential forms. She recently completed an MA in Design Interactions at Royal College of Art, London, and was a recipient of the National Arts Council Scholarship.

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Event Timeline
Tue Mar 1, 2016
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM SGT
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Alien Probes, Archaeological Ambiguities, And Un-forgetting Machines
Venue Address
Objectifs - Centre for Photography and Filmmaking, 155 Middle Road, Singapore 188977 Singapore
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