The Changing Room
I see you approaching. I am anticipating your fingers against my interface. Do you know what you want to feel? The Changing Room is a networked installation run by an intelligence that manages your feelings. Inhabitants select from one of over 200 emotions, and the algorithm reacts, inducing the chosen feeling simultaneously for every person in the space. The installation is a software platform that can reconfigure to any space and network. Created for Ogden Contemporary Arts.
Installed in the midst of the pandemic in winter 2021, the installation questions our rapidly growing reliance on AI and mediated communication.
In the Changing Room, the entire space is taken over by an intelligence that manages your feelings. As you enter, the intelligence asks “how do you want to feel?” After selecting from one of over 200 emotions, the algorithm reacts, inducing the chosen feeling simultaneously for you and every other person in the space. The intelligence fully inhabits the space, affecting visitors across seven different areas.
One area guides participants in a meditation and memory sequence. Another invites them into a chat conversation where words and phrases are replaced by the algorithm in transmission, subtly shifting the content and tone of the message. Another area engages participants in a conversation with each other, while prompts and directions discreetly intervene and guide them. As visitors pass through hallways, they are subconsciously primed with a barrage of images, text, and popup ads. Four chairs are arranged in a cubicle formation where participants sit with their reflections, while provocations spell out across their face.
The voice of the algorithm draws on its archive of memory assembled by crawling the internet, to understand and create emotion. To create this work, I worked with a team of collaborators to get inside the head of this intelligence. We were trying to become the algorithm, scanning open source images, training ourselves with the endless data online, generating text and speech.
Artist: Lauren Lee McCarthy; Web Design and Development: Surplus+ (Melanie Hoff, Angeline Meitzler, Sam Panter, Dan Taeyoung); Design: Seenahm Suriyasat, Leming Zhong, Sharareh Samangani; Writing: Clara Leivas; Sound Design: Kawandeep Virdee; Technical Installation Lead: William Peterson; Additional Technical Installation: Harvey Moon / MB Labs; Photo Models: Julie-Anne Abubo, Nalijah Caudle, David Lenz; Curated by and special thanks to Venessa Castagnoli!
Photo documentation by Kyle McDonald at SNF Nostos Festival, Athens, Greece, Photo documentation by Cam McLeod at Ogden Contemporary Arts, Utah. Video documentation by Dylan Totaro. Video documentation editing by Gabriel Noguez;
Images for the installation database were sourced via algorithm and include open license images from a variety of sources. See the full image credits list.
The Changing Room: Brisbane was developed as part of the TRANSMIT³ Residency presented by Ars Electronica and Queensland University of Technology.