Somerset House Studios

Machine learning, bacteria and seance

14 Sep 2018

Watch a new artwork nimiia cétiï by Jenna Sutela, the result of n-Dimensions: an artist residency programme with Google Arts & Culture + Somerset House Studios.

Jenna Sutela created nimiia cétiï in collaboration with Somerset House Studios resident Memo Akten, and Damien Henry, Head of Innovation at the Google Arts & Culture Lab, as part of Google Arts & Culture’s artist-in-residence program n-Dimensions. The work draws together machine learning processes with martian tongue and seance, inspired by experiments in interspecies communication and aspires to connect with a world beyond our consciousness.

nimiia cétiï, Jenna Sutela, 2018

Documenting the interactions between a neural network, audio recordings of early Martian language, and footage of the movements of space bacteria, the work uses machine learning to generate a new form of communication.

Here, the computer is a shaman of the modern days, a medium, articulating messages from entities that cannot otherwise speak. Interpreting Martian originally channelled by French medium Hélène Smith in the nineteenth century, the machine simultaneously engages with the movements of an extremophilic bacterium called Bacillus subtilis which, according to recent spaceflight experimentation, could survive on Mars.

Mixing wetware and hardware, the project also portrays the computer as an alien of our creation.

The making of nimiia cétiï

Jenna would also like to thank Kieran Bates from the Institute of Zoology at Imperial College London, Adam Laschinger for sound recordings, and Manus Nijhoff and Leith Benkhedda for animation. The work includes Miako Klein in contrabass recorder and Shin-Joo Morgantini in flute, with sound production by Ville Haimala.