Kon:3p>UTION to: e[VOL]utionAGF

Kon:3p>UTION to: e[VOL]ution

In 1972, Ingo Rechenberg applied methods of evolutionary biology and Darwinism to algorithmic programming, spawning theories of ‘artificial evolution’ and ‘evolutionary computation’. These algorithms mimic the natural world; reproducing, mutating, selecting and recombining data. Such methods were successful in solving difficult technical problems, such as the aerodynamics of wing design. In 1983, an artificial intelligence programme generated The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed, a text cautiously hailed as the first book of poetry ever written by a computer. In one part, it seems to suggest a startling sentience, as it writes: 

More than iron, more than lead, more than gold I need electricity. I need it more than I need lamb or pork or lettuce or cucumber. I need it for my dreams.

And In 2014, a Java-based AI program entitled Evolution continuously reconfigured the poetry of Johannes Heldén, with the aim of passing the illustrious Turing test. This leaves important questions; what is the difference between author and programmer? Is such a distinction even meaningful? AGF’s poetry and music has continually revisited these problems, and her latest album — pronounced ‘contribution to evolution’ — is no different. 

Here, there are sonic moves towards that most futuristic genre of our decade; grime. On ‘greim69’, sound effects and fragments of digitally-processed noise dart across the stereo-field. There is also the welcome reappearance of sister-track ‘greim93’, and ‘time {if 1+2 = you}’, the lead single from her 2015 EP: >if * true ~ time [ x ] 1 + 2 = you . \ <. For AGF, these algorithmic cut-ups of sound and poetry give us a way of understanding our current situation. As Burroughs once put it with remarkable precision: “when you cut into the present, the future leaks out”.

For anyone looking to decipher this album’s cryptic message, there comes a helpful poem to tease out and elucidate some of the record’s central themes. This includes lines on ‘the mathematics of emotions’, ‘non-human spaces’ and ‘our potential to become cyborgs’. The last of these is most pertinent. As we export more of our creativity into automated technology, we are being steadily replaced. But for AGF this is no reason to despair. As she sings on the album, “we are vast and limitless”. 

Throughout, the sociopolitical context of her work is, as ever, at its forefront. Whether that is a dedication to Edward Snowden, or a spliced monologue from radical feminist thinker Angela Dimitrakaki, on ‘capita-lis-monster’. At one point, she states; “capitalism at present I would say produces all positions, even the opposition to itself. It can’t exist without the opposition to itself because it needs the task of transcending, it needs the struggle, it feeds it.” There is also a contribution from Kubra Khademi, an Afghani performance artist who walked through Kabul in steel armour to protest harassment. AGF has also hinted that this may be the final CD she will ever press, because, as she writes, “digital times are seriously coming…” 

  • Published
  • Apr 04, 2016