ARCHAELOGICAL MATTERS / “TEMPUS FUGIT”: POMPEII’S PARADOX AND FADING EMPIRES
Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters – the first long-term, contemporary art programme established by the Archaeological Park of Pompeii – has launched a yearly series of Digital Fellowships, facilitating artistic and curatorial research within Pompeii’s uniquely trans-temporal, multi-species, and deeply entangled context. A series of newly produced digital paintings titled Inventory of Magic Mining NO. 1-5 introduces Miao Ying’s Digital Fellowship. Generated with a gaming engine, these works show a landscape of computing and data mining where the magic of technology is presented in its historical manifestations—from man’s first fire, to time-travel tunnels located among coal mines and data farming centres. They hint at a technological mysticism belonging to more-than-human narratives, and are an important clue in orientating oneself when approaching the graphic novel that will be gradually revealed on pompeiicommitment.org, with a new chapter published every two weeks. It would otherwise be hard to guess that Tempus Fugit: Pompeii’s Paradox and Fading Empires was written for Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters by Artificial Intelligence — Machine Learning Text Generation Neural Networks and Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3, better known as GPT-3 — with the prompt of the artist, who trained the AI to study and absorb different styles of writing and then generated a non-human assistant through a chatbot. Feeding ChatGPT with ancient books and encyclopaedias on Roman life, nineteenth century novels and restoration manuals, contemporary and ancient books on Pompeii as well as Chinese and European time-travel literature, Miao Ying originated a meta-archive out of which the adventures of a character called Jack were born. Jack is a contemporary American tourist amazed by his first visit to Pompeii and tempted by the multitude of archaeological fragments and artefacts, unaware of the curse and time-travelling power these hide within their matter. As the plot unfolds, an encounter with a roman gladiator turns into a socio-cultural exchange from ancient Rome to contemporary America, and even a mediaeval Pompeii. With the work developed by Miao Ying for her Digital Fellowship, what emerges is a proposal for a collaborative approach—both with the more-than-human, and the experts that helped selecting the source material which was fed to the AI—an ethos which very much resonates with the broader Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters programme enquiry. The first chapter of Tempus Fugit: Pompeii’s Paradox and Fading Empires is online starting from the 12th April, stay tuned for the following chapters published every two weeks on pompeiicommitment.org.
Credits: Miao Ying, Inventory of Magic Mining NO. 1-5, 2023, oil on canvas, Installation View at Art Basel, Hong Kong, 2023. Courtesy l’Artista e Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, Vienna
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