Art In America

Haroon Mirza

at Lisson Gallery,
136 Tenth Avenue

Google’s DeepDream is a pattern-recognition program that trains artificially intelligent machines to see faces and objects. Images processed by DeepDream have iridescent scales shimmering and swirling over their surfaces, as doglike eyes and snouts cluster at points of attention. While Google promoted the program as a way to make art, the computer-generated images leaves little room for human creativity. But Haroon Mirza has bent it to his own ends, incorporating DeepDream’s distortions in ããã – Fear of the Unknown remix (2017), a hypnotic, eighteen-minute audiovisual installation. Still and moving images flicker across four broad, flat monitors, as a trippy beat generated by a pulsating electrical signal rasps through eight speakers, arranged in a witchy semicircle. In his visuals, Mirza aligns DeepDream with the psychotropic plant Ayahuasca: shamans chant, and one in swim trunks spits coconut juice on a tourist. A live plant sits in a pot to the left of the monitor. In one of the work’s funnier moments, snapshots of street-side sewer drains alternate across the monitors. The indentations in the sidewalk look like eyes, the drain itself a yawning mouth. Their appearances onscreen are accompanied by an audible drone, as if they’re moaning. The human mind, like computers, has its own mechanisms for seeking out familiar patterns; Mirza has us thinking of art as a drug, heightening and intensifying that effect through his own brand of ritual mumbo-jumbo. —Brian Droitcour


Pictured: View of Haroon Mirza's ããã – Fear of the Unknown remix, 2017, at Lisson Gallery. 

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