ralf baecker - Floating Codes I
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Floating Codes I

Installation (Work in Progress) - 2021
Work in Progress Video documentation, 2021

Floating Codes I (1st iteration) is a site-specific light and sound installation that explores the inner workings and hidden aesthetics of artificial neural networks, the fundamental building blocks of machine learning systems. The exhibition space itself becomes a neural network that processes information, its constant alternating environment (e.g. day-night cycle) including the presence of the visitors. The network consists of up to 500 custom artificial neurons (perceptrons) arranged in a hexagonal topological grid. These neurons are able to register light stimuli and react by sending out light pulses to communicate with other neurons in the space. Signals are looping, mutating, feedbacking, and canceling themselves resulting in a complex and continuous altering of visual and acoustic movements. The installation places the visitors in the center of the computational dialog of the neural network.

Depending on the network’s topology, different functions and behaviors constitute, e.g. interlocking circles, feedback loops, memory-like elements, random pattern generators. Each perceptron is equipped with two photosensors and a high-power LED that throws very sharp spots of light and shadows within the space. Additionally, the perceptrons are equipped with small speakers that sonify the activities of each neuron. At its core, every neuron is equipped with a small microcontroller that implements the neural networks function incl. self-adaptation to the environment and autoencoding behavior based on its input.

Once the system is activated the exhibition space becomes immersed in constantly shifting visual and audible pulses. In the visual domain, some kind of abstract shadow drawing will appear as the system’s flickering reaches a frequency spectrum above the human visual perceptual threshold. The open and unsupervised system has no objective, it’s only goal is to maintain and conserve the propagating information in the network.

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Floating Codes, Work in Progress, Studio Ralf Baecker, Berlin 2021
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Artificial neurons and module system
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Modular grid system
[dimensions] The prototype consists of 100 artificial neurons. The installation can be adapted to different spatial conditions and dimensions.

Materials:
Custom electronics, custom circuit boards (PCB), microcontroller, high power LED

Credits:
Production assistance: Timo Johannes and Felix Fisgus