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Gaston Welisch

An interdisciplinary artist, designer, and researcher, Gaston Welisch delves into the intersections of play, AI, and daily life, aiming to demystify technology through creative practices. With a rich background spanning from Paris to Helsinki, he combines graphic design, interaction design, and photography to craft accessible narratives on complex scientific and societal concepts. His upcoming PhD, "AI Oracles and Creative Practices", will critically assess AI's ethical and social impacts. Gaston collaborates extensively, promoting transdisciplinary dialogue and knowledge exchange. Working across scientific, societal, and creative boundaries, Gaston aims to craft delightful, insightful works that challenge complex concepts in engaging ways.

Gaston's journey began with a Master’s degree in European Design, where he honed his skills in creating interactive digital narratives. This exploration continued in his professional work, notably in a collaborative AHRC-funded project that explores digital cultural heritage alongside Scottish culinary culture, demonstrating his curiosity for cultural richness and digital technologies.

His 2020 project, "Data Poets", exemplifies his ability to forge meaningful connections between AI and human experience, transforming sensorial data into poetry that resonates with the essence of place. Further pushing the boundaries, Gaston's current self-directed works, "Botter" and "OMEN.os", employ AI to probe into digital culture, examining the nuances of truth, belief, and trust in relation to artificially intelligent agents.

Gaston's practice is characterised by a practical engagement with AI tools, not simply as instrumental artefacts but as agents in a critical examination of societal issues. This approach, coupled with his diverse experiences across design, art, and research, equips him with a novel perspective for his investigations into AI through the prisms of magic and divination.

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AI Oracles: Negotiating the Oracular Role of Creative Practice

My research critically questions relationship between artificial intelligence (AI) and human interaction within art and technology, using the concepts of divination and magic as a lens to explore and understand AI epistemologies. This inquiry is situated within the broader theoretical framework of my PhD project, which investigates AI's "black box" nature through the analogical framework of divination and magic, putting forward that divinatory practices of interfacing with the unknown can offer novel insights into our engagement with AI systems. Agency is understood here as the capacity of both human and non-human actors, including AI systems, to act within a network of interrelated forces and influences.

My proposal includes two participatory artworks: "Botter," a social media environment populated with AI-generated misinformation to challenge perceptions of truth and belief, and "OMEN.os," a Large Language model powered fortune teller that explores the dynamics of trust in human-AI relationships. I intend to recontextualise these online works, transforming them into spatial installations and accompanying publications that critically engage with the themes of the creative practitioner in the role of the oracle when interpreting and questioning AI. 

These participatory and interactive works place the critical exploration of agency at their core. Drawing upon Actor-Network Theory (Latour, 1996), the artworks are seen as networks of actors or, according to Object-Oriented Ontology (Harman, 2018), as objects in themselves. Latour’s questioning of the separation of science and society also allows me to question the perceived quantitive data-based objectivity of algorithms - what belief systems underpin AI systems like Large Language Models and how can we surface biases and assumptions - I aim to playfully disrupt this neutral perception of AI as a knowledge system.

In alignment with the Residency's call, and in the spirit of Simondon's (1958) concept of 'magical unity,' these works aim to question the boundaries between the technical, the social and the human. They disrupt the dichotomy between the subjective (human) and objective (machine), reflecting Simondon's belief that humans and machines are part of a united, interconnected technical ensemble. This approach also echoes the Residency's call to critically navigate the complexities of agency in the computational era and contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of intelligence.

Preliminary Works:

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