“Critical Climate Machine” with Gaetan Robillard @ ZKM, Karlsruhe

Critical Climate Machine is a project by Gaëtan Robillard that quantifies and reveals the mechanisms of misinformation on global warming. The project was conceived in the framework of European network Mediafutures (of which IRCAM is a partner), at the end of 2020, to launch and support artistic projects that highlight the major role taken by data in media and the contemporary world. As a result, the project consists of a walk-in room with a data sculpture using artificial intelligence in real-time, and a sound installation. Between digital and physical formats, the ensemble offers an experience on how both machine learning and climate change enter public debate.

Project webpage.

Every minute, a thousand tweets containing misleading claims about climate change are transformed and analyzed by a network of embedded processors. The visual output of the installation becomes a landscape of “error codes”. With the help of a code sheet – the audience is invited to identify the misleading arguments to which each of the tweets corresponds. A visualization witnesses the thermal evolution of the sculpture parts.

To complete the installation sonically, Gaëtan Robillard participated in a residency at IRCAM, drawing on the research of Jérôme Nika (DYCI2, designed for musical improvisation). With the help of computer music designer Dionysios Papanikolaou, the creative process extended on using the DYCI2 machine to generate new phrases from a database of specially designed and played dialogues containing various skeptics claims and their refutations.

On the one hand, resulting dialogues are the result of a “disordering” of recorded speech and, on the other, they reconstruct units of meaning. In other words, DYCI2 makes it possible to generate purely musical phrases, but also to provoke accidents or shifts in meaning that make the nature of language on the climate appear in a novel way. Not only does the sound work bring about oppositions between the computable and the non-computable, it also tackles the relationship between technology and society.

Currently (until end of February 2022) Critical Climate Machine (Patterns of Heat) is featured in the exhibition Digiloglounge Who Can We Trust? at ZKM, Karlsruhe. Critical Climate Machine was exhibited as well in the Deutsches Museum, Nürnberg in October and November 2021.

Gaëtan Robillard, Jérôme Nika (musical representations team) IRCAM scientific collaboration; Tony Houziaux, sound designer; Dionysios Papanikolaou, computer music designer; Özlem Sulak, artist advisor; Vincent Nozick, deep learning expert; Laurine Capdeville, engineer designer; Jolan Goulin, engineer programmer; John Cook, Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub, Monash University, Australia. Constantine Boussalis, Department of Political Science, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland; Travis G. Coan, Department of Politics and the Exeter Q-Step Centre, University of Exeter, United Kingdom.