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Machine Kinship: The Impossible Duet

What does it mean to vanish from earth when you are the last of your kind?

In 1987 the Kauai ōō was recorded singing his final song. It was meant to be a duet, but as the last of his kind his song hangs in the air, unanswered. The other half of the duet is forever lost.

 

Built to sing at dawn, birds must wake up earlier to hear each other before human chaos interferes. So here, it is always almost sunrise. As a parallel past-future response, the last birdsong was fed into a Machine Learning model created to record human voices, but instead is listening to the song learning and recreating the response. This second song will join him in a technological afterlife.


Soft robotics for songbirds: The journey with Flow.io

In this duet -while they sing- one bird is beating (right) and the other is breathing (left).

The breathing sculpture was born from an exploration of the particular and unique breathing system of birds and their larynx. They don't only sing with their lungs but with their air sacs.


For this reason, some birds can sing while inhaling and exhaling because the air sacs allow a continuous flow of air.




With flow.io I explored the possibilities to simulate that breathing patterns while they sing, and at the same time to create a choreography in sync with the sound in where one piece of the sculpture is singing and the other one is replying. This way the pneumatic mechanism was a way to explore organic rhythms and tempos so it could feel as natural and fragile as possible yet stable.









This installation is a moment frozen in time, of an impossible duet. The AI will try to learn the song before dawn. As extinction rates speed up, animals see their relatives dying more often, sometimes as in the case of birds, they don’t have enough time to learn the whole language. Is this creating an awareness of its mortality?


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