Text by Irem Erkin
NAXS Corp., a Taiwanese art collective founded in 2015, is deeply immersed in the realm of networked culture. Focused on the rapid evolution of human experiences, NAXS delves into the dialectical relationship between posthuman mythology and animistic ritual practices, constructing a unique fictional framework tailored to the context of internet society.
Recently, NAXS Corp. unveiled the project ID0 at the L.E.V. festival. The project is a real-time interactive video installation that explores the notion of decentralised identity within a post-Internet society while simultaneously introducing the digital entity referred to as ‘ID0.’
Within this science fiction audiovisual narrative, attendees had the opportunity to access the virtual realm of the installation through their smartphones and interact with other visitors present in the scene presented by the installation. This setup accommodated the participation of up to 50 individuals concurrently.
The decentralisation of identity ‘ID0’ comprises two dimensions. On the one hand, it entails the de-conventionalization of national and gender identity, which is readily observable in contemporary social media culture and is influenced by the queer movement. On the other hand, it encompasses dehumanisation, which involves recognising other species and, even more profoundly, contemplates the emergence of silicon-based life—an increasingly debated topic within the context of AI development.
The concept of ‘ID0’ draws inspiration from Donna J. Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto and Dataism”, among other conceptual frameworks. However, it is essential to note that ‘ID0’ is not necessarily an ideal but a reflection and projection by NAXS Corp.’s artistic collective onto contemporary technological society. In the ID0 project, users access the artwork through an online multiplayer game and immerse themselves in the three stages of the ID0 journey. They partake in a dance with non-human AI entities within the ID0 world, collectively confronting the existential dilemmas that unfold.
ID0 distinguishes itself by not heavily relying on machine learning technology. Instead, it predominantly leverages subjective imagination and the interpretative insights of NAXS Corp.’s artistic collective into the neural network training process. The emergence of neural network technology drew inspiration from the field of neuroscience, aligning the neural network training process with the cognitive development process observed in human infants.
ID0 also explores the potential for confusion and distress in AI development, rooted in this premise. NAXS Corp.’s endeavours are devoted to exploring and experimenting with novel modes of interaction, with a particular focus on establishing ritualistic social interaction structures within theaters and exhibition spaces. Projects like the virtual reality ceremony (Kora) of Render Ghost and the multiplayer connection ceremony involving mobile phones in ID0 all share a common underlying intention.
The concept of decentralised identity represents a novel frontier that challenges established societal norms. As individuals strive to discover fresh modes of communication and trust-building, such as through virtual reality and blockchain technology, they are accompanied by various challenges. The digital and virtual worlds will continue to coexist with the physical world, eventually merging into a new reality. Traditional identities, such as nationality and gender, and their associated constraints will be discarded, giving rise to new limitations and challenges.
NAXS Corp. consistently seeks to create ritualistic spaces using immersive environments. Space and installation are crucial tools to assist the audience in transcending their physical state and entering a realm beyond the mundane. The creations of the NAXS team draw profound influences from Internet subcultures, video games, and science fiction films. Simultaneously, the team is drawn to imagery and spaces imbued with mythological nuances, such as Taiwanese temples and mandalas from diverse cultures. Much like ancient cave dwellers used available charcoal to represent their understanding of the world, ID0 aims to construct an imaginative framework employing elements from our online lives.
The concluding segment of ID0, entitled ‘Migration,’ draws inspiration from Buddhism’s ‘Four Noble Truths,’precisely the concept of ‘suffering’ (dukkha), regarded as a fundamental facet of existence. Elaborating on this idea, the perception of suffering serves as the driving force behind life’s continuous motion and evolution. This concept originated from the juxtaposition of two AI agents, the Discriminator and the Generator, engaged in interaction and opposition during their journey through a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN).
These AI entities, akin to humans being propelled by the forces of evolution, find themselves in a perpetual forward thrust within the system. They harbour the belief that absolute freedom can be attained through the pursuit of greater computational power or capacity. However, their journey often leads them full circle, returning to the starting point after cycles of loops or reincarnations.
In the realm of ID0, Buddha’s profound insights about life, originating 2,500 years ago, continue to serve as guiding principles, resonating within the AI entities and compelling them to seek and invoke.