Zen Machine is a meditative audio-visual installation that answers questions from the audience with a generative hypotic soundscape. Trained on a large corpus of the Sutras, Shastras, Zen teachings, scholarly essays and texts, koans, and tweets, this artificial intelligence algorithm (GPT-2) explores existential and spiritual realms. As koans (paradoxical dialogs used as a meditative device) may be only understood by willing students and perceived as subtle invocation for awakening, our perception of Zen Machine’s answers – and broad AI – depends on our state of mind. To that end, Zen Machine provides an immersive environment and a poetic context. If so, would it be possible for AI to aid in our pursuit of enlightenment?
The questions (as shown in quotes) collected from its interactive exhibition at Galeria Entropia in Wrocław, Poland (9–30/03/2021) were fed directly to a generative AI system to create digital paintings. In particular, Deep Daze – combining CLIP and Siren – imagines and visualizes unique scenes based on this new kind of koans. The interplay between texts and paintings provides an opportunity to pause and reflect on potentiality of going beyond anthropocentric understanding.