Luxembourg City

Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni, 1922—The Uncomputable, 2016, HD video, color, sound, 26 minutes.

Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni, 1922—The Uncomputable, 2016, HD video, color, sound, 26 minutes.

Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni

Casino Luxembourg

Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni, 1922—The Uncomputable, 2016, HD video, color, sound, 26 minutes.

Art history regularly yields works that are worlds unto themselves, that demand time of the viewer and can only be understood properly from an oblique perspective, from a precise viewpoint, performing something like a temporal rather than a spatial anamorphosis. Among these is Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni’s series “The Unnamed,” 2014–, an epic tracing the world’s gradual algorithmization, which debuted at the Casino Luxembourg in January and will subsequently travel to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Fondation d’Entreprise Ricard in Paris, the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, Tasmania; and the Galerie de l’Université du Québec à Montréal. While the content of the introduction and seven episodes of the work’s first “season” is too vast to be detailed here, suffice it to say that it tracks a few of the major key dates in the packed history of computer science. The duo begin their story with the arrival of the first conquistadors on the West Coast of the United States, well before it became home to Silicon Valley; their story continues until 2045, the date when, according to computer scientist Ray Kurzweil, we’ll reach the famous singularity, when machines will take control.

Situated at an early point on this grand historical arc, 1759—Mil trois cens quarante huyt (One Thousand Three Hundred and Forty-Eight), 2017, the subject of which is an astronomical phenomenon, responds to 1997—The Brute Force, 2014, which portrays the defeat of chess player Garry Kasparov by the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue. Filmed afterward but using shots that are identically framed and of the same duration as the film set in 1997, 1759 concerns a comet whose appearance in the sky confirmed the calculations and prediction of its return by the astronomer and mathematician Edmond Halley, while also addressing the superstitions associated with comets until that point. Similarly employing a parallelism of shots, an episode dedicated to the revolts of Lyonnais silk workers or canuts, against the use of jacquard looms (operated with perforated cards that many consider a precursor to the computer) equates the struggles of the working class in 1834 with the subject of another episode: the inner revolt (although in vain) of Alan Turing, who was subjected to hormonal treatment meant to cure his homosexuality in 1953.

Meanwhile, at the extreme ends of Giraud and Siboni’s time frame, 1532 hallucinates 2045_—_artificial intelligence seizes the later film and gradually incorporates it, as part of a logic that is literally animistic, into the images of the first one. 1922The Uncomputable, 2016, presented in the middle of the sequence, plays a pivotal role. More emphatic than the other works, it turns to the fantasies of the English meteorologist Lewis Fry Richardson, who imagined a spherical structure meant to contain sixty-four thousand “computers”—not machines, but women running calculations—who could predict the earth’s climate. After 1922, Giraud and Siboni suggest, processes set in motion centuries before would finally begin to come to a head. A recurrent image in the project’s introduction, 0000—The Axiom, 2014, is that of a blade cutting through metal. “The Unmanned” speaks to us about a world cut in two, a before and an after resulting from the gradual retreat of man.

Claire Moulène

Translated from French by Molly Stevens.