Autoimmune [warhead]

2022, 18 minutes, English
2-channel video and 6-channel audio installation

Classically, the purpose of images, narratives, metaphors, etc., has been to make sense out of sensibility by selecting among the chaos of lived experience a simplification that can be understood and communicated. This process always involves abstracting some essence out of a multitude of possible inputs, which is where aesthetic choice comes into play. This is even true of artificial intelligence systems in which the data must be ‘cleaned’ before it will yield anything comprehensible to the human mind. What Serafim has done is to reverse the usual aesthetic. Instead of trying to clean up experience by finding the narrative threads, metaphors and iconic images, he has tried to recreate the lived chaotic experience by feeding an AI system with not just unselected images but more importantly the entire range of images that bombarded a pre-ART person with AIDS. By refusing to select the narrative line, one type of metaphor, a cleaned set of images – indeed by reversing the process to mix metaphors, take out the narrative line, and ‘dirty’ the images – he recaptures the confusion, distress, fear, anger, and incomprehensibility of lived experience. What I find so exciting is that this messy, real, contradictory, insane, problematic, ‘dirty’ experience yields a completely different aesthetic that Serafim illustrates in his most abstract results. This aesthetic is much more difficult to comprehend, unfamiliar, disconcerting, and thus so much more ‘real’ than the ‘photorealism’ questioned in the beginning of his essay precisely because it IS what it is like to experience something like AIDS. It IS the mind trying to make sense of what the mind (and body) are doing when it is impossible to comprehend what is happening to it. An art that captures that sensibility is something new.

Robert Root-Bernstein, Ph.D.

Professor of Physiology, Michigan State University

Made in collaboration with Douglas McCausland (music composition, sound design and mixing), Ian Kirkpatrick (creative coding), and Devin Bayly (creative coding). Support: Research Technologies Data & Visualization at the University of Arizona.

Fosdick-Nelson Gallery, School of Art and Design, NYSCC at Alfred University, New York