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Online-talk with artist in residence Zach Blas

Please join us for an online conversation with Zach Blas, the winner of the Residency Programme at Tallinn Art Hall, which is part of the large-scale cooperation project BEYOND MATTER – Cultural Heritage on the Verge of Virtual Reality. The conversation will be moderated by Tallinn Art Hall curator Corina L. Apostol and artist, writer and educator Kristaps Ancāns.


This event is free of charge, will take place in English and will be recorded.


Across his works, Zach Blas closely engages the materiality of digital technologies while also drawing out the philosophies and imaginaries lurking in artificial intelligence, the internet, predictive policing, airport security, biometric recognition, and biological warfare. Blas embraces the media of computation, video, sculpture, and music in his installations that sharply confront biometric surveillance, the cult of optimization, and the reification of data bodies. The artist uses research-based practices to scrutinize the relationship between digital technologies and the cultures and politics that animate them.
Blas’ residency project in the framework of “Beyond Matter” looks at aspects of religion that are uncannily mirrored in contemporary cultures of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is often represented as divine. In 2017, the first AI church was founded in California. Online, memes proliferate that reimagine Michelangelo’s fresco The Creation of Adam (1508–1512) as an elite vision of transcendence, in which AI extends the capacities of the human body. But here Michelangelo’s other fresco The Last Judgement (1536–1541) is more appropriate for the masses, as AI is deployed globally as an arbiter of life. Blas’s project seriously considers the implications of representing AI within the context of religious belief and judgment.


The conversation will center around questions related to what lies behind our desire to create AI technologies, and why we develop AIs in human form – is it our craving to replicate ourselves or the idea of a creator or god? And in turn, what happens to bodies when they’re mediated by different technologies, media apparatuses, and other generic forms? Do we also possess artificial intelligence if, according to the Bible, we were created by god? Are we biomechanical machines, spiritual beings or intelligent animals? And if we have the tools to replicate something so well that it cannot be discerned from the real thing, can it be considered the real thing?
Zach Blas is an artist, filmmaker, and writer whose practice spans moving image, computation, theory, performance, and science fiction. Blas engages the materiality of digital technologies while also drawing out the philosophies and imaginaries lurking in artificial intelligence, biometric recognition, predictive policing, airport security, and the internet. Blas has exhibited, lectured, and held screenings internationally, recently at the British Art Show 9, Tate Modern, Walker Art Center, 2018 Gwangju Biennale, Matadero Madrid, 68th Berlin International Film Festival, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gasworks, e-flux, ZKM Center for Art and Media, and Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo. His practice has been supported by Creative Capital, Arts Council England, and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. His artist monograph Unknown Ideals will be published in 2022 with Edith-Russ-Haus für Medienkunst and Sternberg Press. Blas is an Assistant Professor of Visual Studies in the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto.


Kristaps Ancāns is an artist whose practice investigates the confusion between humans, nature, and machines through a conceptual game with its own artificial intelligence. He works across media in the fields of sculpture, text, and installation which often contain a kinetic component. Ancāns has exhibited, lectured and taught at venues internationally, including Publiek Park/S.M.A.K Museum, domobaal, The Latvian National Opera and Ballet, Riga International Biennale of Contemporary Art, Art Station Dubulti, Code Art Fair, Tate Exchange/Tate Modern, Museum of London, Royal Academy of Arts London, Hyde Park-London, Central Saint Martins/UAL, PEER, Five Years, Vienna Contemporary, Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn Art Hall, Setouchi Triennale and Tokyo University of the Arts. He is the co-head of POST, the interdisciplinary MA Program at the Art Academy of Latvia. He lives and works between London and Riga.


Corina L. Apostol is a curator at the Tallinn Art Hall and the curator of the Estonian Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale. She is a member of the steering committee and co-curator of the international collaborative, practice-based research project Beyond Matter. Corina is a guest lecturer at POST – MA programme of study at the Art Academy of Latvia. She was the Mellon Fellow at Creative Time, where she co-edited Making Another World Possible: 10 Creative Time Summits, 10 Global Issues, 100 Art Projects (Routledge, 2019). Between 2010-2016 she was the Dodge Curatorial Fellow at the Zimmerli Art Museum. She obtained her Ph.D in Art History at Rutgers University (2017). Corina is the co-founder of the activist publishing platform ArtLeaks and since 2012 editor-in-chief of the ArtLeaks Gazette. She has been longlisted for the Kandinsky Prize (2016) and the Sergey Kuryokhin Prize (2020). She is the winner of the apex art 2022–2023 exhibition proposals competition in New York.


Beyond Matter is co-funded by the Creative Europe Program of the European Union and German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.