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Taken by Artificial Surprise 

Performance and installation series exploring surprise, magic and machine learning

Thursday, July 28 - Saturday, July 31, 2022

 7:30 pm

Free (reservation required)

CultureLAB LIC: 5-25 46th Avenue, Long Island City, New York, NY 11101  


This performance and installation explores the relationships between magic, machine learning, and surprise. Participants are welcomed to step inside a performed thought-experiment where they find themselves within a Turing test of sorts. Presented with performances of historic pieces of magic with varying levels of surprise as well as magic developed with the help of AI, participants, while in the moment, might find themselves a bit unsure as to which may be which. Each presentation is immediately followed by a performed tea service. 


Taken by Artificial Surprise dives into the interwoven concepts of the Victorian-era-esque parlor amusement ‘the imitation game’ imagined by Alan Turing, and the adjacent drawing-room magic of the same time period. The now-famous Turing test was inspired by this ‘imitation game’ and utilized the question, "can a machine take us by surprise?" as a way to investigate computational intelligence…. What might performances of the seemingly impossible demonstrate about the capabilities and limitations of both machine learning and the human mind? Andrews invites participants to think about what constitutes the experience of surprise itself and whether surprise is a unique, defining factor of human consciousness. The work also highlights how the mechanisms to create surprise lie deep within the gaps of lived and learned experience and are perhaps made using the ontological commitments and sense data of robust personal and cultural experiences. The work may also provoke questions as to whether a computer or a human is capable of producing more surprising results.  Andrews also notes that, “this project was inspired by my time as an Affiliate at metaLAB (at) Harvard. During this time I was fortunate to have encountered a diversity of ideas and research, and discourse with metaLAB members also greatly assisted the ideation process.” This work is made possible by Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc. and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature. 


About Culture Lab LIC 

Culture Lab LIC is a 501(c)(3) formed to bring accessible, high quality art of all genres to our community, and to support local artists by providing rehearsal, performance, exhibition space, as well as a robust residency program. CL is dedicated to upholding, equity, diversity and inclusion across all our platforms. Operating out of a 12,000 square foot art center, Culture Lab LIC hosts two fine art galleries, a 90 seat theatre, classroom space, and an 18,000 square foot outdoor venue, made possible by the generous donation of space from Plaxall Inc. CL is honored to host more arts programming than any other organization in New York City. Culture Lab is more than a venue, it is the heart of Long Island City. 

A very special thanks to Plaxall Inc. for the donation of this amazing space and supporting us in turning it into this cornerstone of arts and community activity! 



This project was also made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant program, a program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature and administered by Flushing Town Hall.


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