Alchorisma alludes to the relationships between algorithms, charisma, rhythm, alchemy and karma. Alchorisma is a Constant worksession which looks at integrating cosmogenetic views with the charisma surrounding technology. We look at ways to infect existing algorithmic models with positions that acknowledge the importance of co-existence with non-human entities. The Alchorisma worksession takes place from 2nd - 8 December 2018 at Z33, House for Contemporary Art in Hasselt, Belgium.
Image: Bagus Putra Muljadi. Bentheimer Sandstone. Digital Rocks Portal (September 2015)
Algorithms have made their way into contemporary society through mathematics and computer science, as sets of rules, behaviours or methods underlying software operations. They have become closely associated with a problem-solving engineering mindset, and more recently with market-driven optimisation, proprietary technologies and morally troubling decision making. However, algorithms extend beyond the man-made world. They are inherent in all matter. Organic and inorganic, microscopic and macroscopic. They can describe generative processes of living things, from the branching of trees and division of cells, to the flows of crowds and fluids.
We rarely see algorithms themselves, as they are embodied in source code, laws of physics or DNA. Yet we’re surrounded by their effects, including the appearance of grown and built structures, the development of individuals and organisations, or algorithmically customised newsfeeds. Tacit and unseen, algorithms often guide our actions. They influence the processes and behaviours of human societies, economies and legal systems. The influence flows in both directions; while algorithms influence us, we are capable of influencing algorithms too. We can exert our agency and change their behaviours and directions. Changing the algorithms of a legal code, for example, can allow rivers, forests and mountains to gain legal rights to be protected from human exploitation (e.g. the recognition of the Whanganui river as a ’person’ in New Zealand or Rights of Nature in Ecuador).
Alchorisma is interested in the possibilities of infecting, contaminating, transforming the algorithmic by other non-exclusively-human visions of the world. Alchorisma proposes to be a common ground from which algorithms can start to overcome the strictly optimizing concepts.
We begin approaching non-anthropocentric algorithms by acquainting ourselves with the perspectives of trees, stones and spirits, in the site-specific context of the former beguinage of Z33 and beyond. Each of these entities can function as an entry-point into a panpsychic worldview: a proposition that all matter possesses an elementary aliveness to which we can relate. Alchorisma aims to become a collective process of collaboration with the workshop participants, trees, stones and spirits, as envoys or archetypes pointing to changing relationships between humans and the rest of the world.
We ask ourselves what patterns, behaviours and transformations can we discover in dialogue with stones, trees and spirits? Which algorithms underlie their properties, processes and needs? How can we translate these algorithms into human-readable forms? In what way can these algorithmic models become (dis)functional? What can they teach us about life-affirming relationships with not-only-human entities?
After the exploration of species-specific algorithms during the first days, our intention is to collectively compose an algorithmic structure in which these beyond-human models can be combined into a generative ecosystem of sorts; an interconnecting tissue or algorithmic social space. A place where we could collaborate with spirits, stones, trees or any other entities that might join the collective process throughout the week. During the work session we will stretch our imagination to jointly develop prototypes, models and concepts of alchorisms – charismatic algorithms.
We will work with the following guides:
* Anne-Laure Buisson, An Mertens (Constant) will be your hosts for the week and will show you how you can become friends with a tree.
* Maja Kuzmanovic & Nik Gaffney (FoAM) explore panpsychism and animism in contemporary techno-materialistic societies. For Alchorisma, FoAM will focus on geological substrates of digital technology. From their temporary outpost in Japan, they invite you to work with attunement as a way to reestablish relationships with geological entities and glacial timescales, to experiment with algorithms to re-confuse binary distinctions between nature and culture, human and non-human, life and death. https://fo.am/
* The collective RYBN will present their work ADM XI and Data Ghosts as case studies of integrating non-human entities in the algorithmic world. They will propose a methodology to collectively establish a common syntax (grammar & graphical forms) for the week. http://rybn.org/
* Marleen Verschueren, Linda Verplancke, Karin Van Ginneken, Martina Gylsen, Nele Deman, Erik De Wilde and Ingrid Baisier, a local shamans collective will invite you to the world of spirits, with a ritual at the beginning of the worksession.
The participants are 17 people from a diversity of backgrounds, disciplines and nationalities. Programmers, engineers, artists, scientists and designers interested in integrating panpsychic approaches in their work. Their work includes speculative philosophy, contemporary alchemy, techno-shamanism, radical environmentalism and even witchcraft with machine learning tendencies. They are people interested in developing scores and algorithms, transforming their spells, rants and recipes into a systemic hack or executable code.
Alchorisma is developed by the association for art and media Constant in collaboration with Z33 House for Contemporary Art in Hasselt, in the context of Z33’s Research Studio Time.