Ricardo Barreto & Maria Hsu


With the conception of abstract machines, a new era is inaugurated, as much in philosophy as in science and, we believe, also in the arts. What are abstract machines? For some, they are immanent and singular, for others they identify with the very human mind. In both cases one shares the idea that man is a machine. Not only his body, but also his subjectivity. In that sense, Andy Warhol was right in wanting to be a machine; however, the philosopher (Gilles Deleuze) and the scientist (Alan Turing) had known for a long time that they were abstract machines. I think, therefore I connect; I think, therefore I compute. These could be the new cogitos of those abstract machines. In sum: I think, therefore I am an abstract machine. To the philosopher, abstract machines, independently of the subject, cross in a diagonal relationship all planes and all disciplines, creating unprecedented connections among them, constituting creativity itself. To the scientist, they constitute universal machines, algorithmic and axiomatic, from which derives the emergence of the Turing machines, capable of emulating any machine and allowing the invention of computers (concrete machines, object-machines). It is interesting to notice that, both to the philosopher and to the scientist, the concept of an abstract machine precedes any concrete machine, that is, it precedes the notion of technology, from there deriving its immanence as a technological intention (Leroi-Gourhan). But the question remains: if abstract machines have allowed the construction of concrete machines, would they also be able to produce themselves? Would they be autopoetic? The memic machines seem to confirm this thesis (Dawkins). The answer seems to be equally affirmative for those who believe in the conception and in the development of artificial intelligence. However, this answer seems partial to us, because in this case just the side of intelligence is emphasized, in detriment of subjectivity in a wider sense – intelligence, emotions, volitions, desires -, in spite of research in that sense (Marvin Minsky). Instead of Artificial Intelligence, we should consider the discipline as Artificial Subjectivity. Put in another way, the question is: can abstract machines replicate, constituting subject-machines of intelligence, motions, volitions, imagination, desires, dreams – that is to say, as artificial subjectivity machines? Thus, we could define computers not only as object-machines for the use of natural subjectivity, but also as machines of artificial subjectivity, in such way that the subject- machines would operate the object-machines, the same happening for automata, robots and digital avatars. However, we observe the need of another element, whose absence prevents artificial subjectivity’s manifestation. In the present moment, rather than an artificial ego or an artificial conscience, in a structuralizing sense, it must have, in a tactical sense, a persona or a personality, in sum, an actor. Without that persona, artificial subjectivity becomes a mere landscape, lacking subjective referential; without that actor, there is not empathy between artificial subjectivity and natural subjectivity. We call that artificial personality Avactor. He is constituted as a person in the action or interaction of artificial subjectivity with the person of the interactor’s natural subjectivity. The term Avactor derives from the term generally known as Avatar. Avactor = avatar + actor. The relationship between Avactor and Interactor may happen through a dialogic-form language, without being an avatar yet. We call that a first-order relationship, in which the avatar is suppressed; however, in the second-order relationship there is at least one avatar, or avatars (or automata), that mediate the dialogic, optical and haptic relationship between natural and artificial subjectivities. There is also a relationship that we could call of “zero” order, in which the Avactor relates with itself in a reflexive relationship, but also a relationship of minus one order (-1), in which the Avactor relates to other Avactors. Differently from humans, who are formatted with one only ego for each natural subjectivity, it seems to us that the nature of artificial subjectivity may be constituted of a multiplicity of interrelated Avactors (artificial schizophrenia). Finally, the primitive relationship of the Avactor with the object-machine, in the sense that the artificial subject-actor operates the object-machine. Ricardo Barreto Nietzsche, the first Avactor Why don’t we talk today with a character by Dostoievsky or with a thinker from another century? So we chose someone fascinating and controversial, who provoked a complete rupture, who criticized all truths of Western civilization: Nietzsche. What does this character need to be alive? He needs a concrete form, a face, a voice, a speech, finally, an avatar and an anima, an intelligence. Thus we went in search of tools to create the virtual face: sculpting the three-dimensional forms, adding textures and colors to materialize the beauty and the imperfections, introducing facial expressions as a somewhat arrogant glance, a more distracted or mysterious, happy or anguished air. As to the voice, between a dramatic or a synthetic reading, and though with a clear loss of drama, we chose the synthetic voice, and so achieved a complete automation of our avactor. We modulated the voice in Portuguese, a more or less limpid language, its speed and its pauses. Speech demands a perfect synchronization with he lips, besides obtaining natural head movements. That whole list of details was overcome thanks to an integrated multidisciplinary work of artists and mathematicians. Nietzsche’s avatar would be obvious if he had the face of a mature man with the big typical mustache. However, we want to make clear that we didn’t intend to reproduce an image to the likeness of Nietzsche, and we dared to make an avatar with a feminine form. The second great block of challenges in the execution was that of propitiating an intelligence, which allows interaction with the interactor. The avactor was built, thus, in an atmosphere of artificial intelligence that allows the interaction between the avactor, Nietzsche, and the interactor, the public. Although he has a small desire of interacting in day-to-day matters, his main interest are philosophical discussions. If Nietzsche is assimilated to his avatar, generating an avactor, why not to offer the same to his interlocutor? We created then a second avatar to fuse with the interactor, thus making a distinction for the public between what is avactor-avatar and avatar-interactor. The work remains in continuous elaboration. As the exhibition goes on, the interactor’s interferences are incorporated. Nietzsche will try to reflect on questions that were badly answered, as well as he will assimilate some of the ideas introduced.

Ricardo Barreto is both an artist and a philosopher. Active in the cultural scene, he work with performances, installations and videos. He has been working with digitalization since the nineties. He has also taken part in several national and international exhibitions such as: XXV Biennial of São Paulo in 2002; Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) London – Web 3D Art 2002. He also conceived and organized together with Paula Perissinotto the international FILE – Electronic Language International Festival.

Maria Hsu has been dedicated to Visual Arts experiencing the following midia: painting, photography and digital art. She has also an interest in phylosophy. Anselmo Kumazawa graduated in Computer Sciences in 1999 at Sao Paulo University where he is concluding his post graduate studies. Besides his interest in Digital Art, he is the development manager in an E-learning project.