Art + Australia is proud to premier Stanton Cornish-Ward’s new film I Know A Person When I Talk To It. Alongside Cornish-Ward's film we present Katie Paine's written response, Fifteen Leagues Below.
I Know A Person When I Talk To It follows an anonymous protagonist, a burnt out Web 3.0 engineer who experiences a series of increasingly strange events whilst on a retreat on King Island. A remote location nestled in the ‘Bass Strait Triangle’ (akin to The Bermuda Triangle). This stretch of land and water has recorded more disappearances of ships, aircraft, and individuals than any other area in Australia.1 What starts off as a personal reprieve from society slowly slips into a new form of remote paranoia. Amid his attempts to find inner peace within a new daily rhythm, the island's troubled history starts to manifest itself in strange and unsettling presences. These encounters appear to be orchestrated by an unseen, enigmatic intelligence, that deciphers parapsychological imprints using WiFi radio signals which gradually bleed into the protagonist's reality.
Using a variety of rapidly developing synthetic media techniques—such as image and video diffusion models, musical composition general adversarial networks (GANs), and deep learning voice synthesis—alongside traditional filmic techniques, Cornish-Ward captures our current transitional moment in digital media. The film draws from ideas positioned in computer scientist David Gelernter’s 1994 book ‘The Muse In the Machine’, who’s previous book ‘Mirror Worlds’ (1991) accurately predicted the rise of the internet and how we interact with it. Gelernter's 1994 proposition that authentic artificial thought necessitates the precursors of 'dreaming', 'intuiting', and even 'hallucinating', resonates anew in our current era of advanced Large Language Models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, where AI-generated 'hallucinations' have emerged in outputs that present coherent yet falsified information to users.
The film’s narrative foundation was inspired by the research of Victorian amateur maritime historian Jack Loney, the strange aerial disappearance of Frederick Valentich among others, and the paper ‘Person-in-WiFi: Fine-grained Person Perception using WiFi’ co-authored by The Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University, which used deep neural network to translate radio signals from consumer WiFi routers. These signals were converted into video visualisations of 3D space, allowing the network to detect and track the three-dimensional shape and movements of human bodies in a room. As we move into a new AI integrated era, its transcendence, invisible to us inside the black box, will lie in its ability to access and recreate the inexplicable aspects of our own minds—the dreams and intuitions that humanise the thought process.
1. Loney, J.K. (1980) ‘Forward’, in Mysteries of the Bass Strait Triangle. Belmont, Vic.: Neptune Press, pp. 11–11.