To be moved deeply by the atmosphere of a place, or by music, is a feeling every human being can relate to. As an experience, it is not only a testament to our perception of the world, but the manifold emotions that come along with it, often contradictory and opaque: every beautiful moment implicates the melancholy of its transience.
Somnium is an installation playing with the ambience of the stunning location at the JKU TNF-tower and hymns, a musical form specifically written for the purpose of adoration or prayer. Together with the visitor an artificial intelligence (AI) observes the inspiring surroundings at the tower which invite the viewers to contemplate and enjoy the situation. Meanwhile the AI “interprets” the Anthem of Europe by Beethoven, The Internationale, the National Anthem of the Republic of Austria and the Anthem of Upper Austria, turning the moment into a bittersweet reflection on the current situation of democracy and the condition of our planet in general. What are the hymns of today? Are there any? What does farsightedness mean in our complex world? Somnium is also a visionary novel by Johannes Kepler, considered by many as one of the first works of science fiction. What are our outlooks, our visions today? The installation sparks an interplay between the “perception” and “interpretation” of the AI and the associations of the individual visitor, leaving open questions about today’s relationship between humanity and machines. The AI-based music composition system used here is called “Ricercar: An AI-based Music Companion” and is being developed by Ali Nikrang at Ars Electronica Futurelab.