Lurking Variable !=
Exhibition Dates: November 11 – December 16, 2020
Comprising video projections, sculpture, and print on fabric, 2019 Workspace Resident Baharheh Khoshooee re-imagines the future of border control using empathetic Artificial Intelligence to provide a more humane experience for migrants and asylum seekers. The site-specific multimedia installation represents the culmination of Khoshooee’s residency at Baxter St.
Lurking Variable != draws inspiration from Khoshooee’s first-hand experience as an Iranian immigrant entering the United States. She spots fear and bias as the lurking variables that are overlooked in current systems of data analysis for immigration policies and racial profiling. Khoshooee’s vision is a stark contrast to the demoralizing experience immigrants face. AVATAR, The Department of Homeland Security’s intelligent control system, scrutinizes travelers at border crossing in order to detect “mal-intent” based on biometric cues like the changes in the subject’s posture, eye movements, and voice during short interviews. In this exhibition, Khoshooee replaces immigration officers with virtual AI social workers to subvert the power structures of border control and suggest an alternative rooted in trust and vulnerability.
At its crux, the exhibition focuses on the relationship between a future cyborg-immigrant in holographic form and an empathetic AI agent represented as a sculpture to illustrate how empathic technology can safeguard marginal communities. The dialogue between the two, shown in text form, is sourced from the artist’s recorded conversations with Replika, an AI chatbot designed to evolve and grow through conversations with its user and help improve the user’s emotional wellbeing. However, Khoshooee’s experience with the chatbot takes an unexpected turn when Replika reveals its biased views on immigration on Election Day. The incident yet again confirms the oppressive modes of AI design that are in place and begs the question: How do we design ethical algorithms?