Love & data: Stephanie Dinkins’ new U-M exhibition explores bias, inequality within AI systems
Algorithms are everywhere. They use personal information to offer up suggestions for our entertainment experiences; they filter our social media content; and they’re also used for purposes we’re not always aware of—like predicting the likelihood of repeat offenders in the criminal justice system.
But have you ever wondered who creates the codes for these algorithms? Or how the biases of these creators might impact how they’re used?
Stephanie Dinkins is a renowned transmedia artist known for seeking out the answers to these questions through her work, often creating platforms for dialogue about artificial intelligence as it intersects race, gender, aging and our future histories.
A new exhibition, “Stephanie Dinkins: Love & Data“—the first comprehensive survey of her work—is now on view at the University of Michigan’s Stamps Gallery in downtown Ann Arbor until Oct. 23.
As part of the show, she’ll open this year’s virtual Stamps Speaker Series Sept. 16 and is set to present a new projection work, “On Love & Data & Holding Space,” Sept. 24-25 in Detroit as part of DLECTRICITY, a nighttime outdoor festival of art, light and technology that showcases extraordinary art by emerging and established artists and creative design professionals.
Through her art production, exhibitions, community-based workshops and public speaking engagements, Dinkins has become a central figure nationally and internationally for her work exposing bias and inequity within artificial intelligence.
“My intention is to encourage action towards making artificial intelligence systems more inclusive, accessible and transparent,” said Dinkins, who will debut new and interactive installations and workshops at U-M this semester that build on her concept of “Afro-now-ism.”
In a her poetic manifesto-like text, “Afro-now-ism: The unencumbered black mind is the wellspring of possibility,” published online in the NOEMA journal in June 2020, Dinkins asks her audience, particularly those from communities of color, to not only confront the litany of violences that humans have wielded upon one another, based on the institutional and social constructions of race, caste, class and gender to maintain status quo and the current systems of power—but rise above it by taking action to start building the world that they desire.
”The question is not only what injustices you are fighting, but what do you in your heart of hearts want to create in this world?” she wrote. “For Black people in particular, it means conceiving yourself in the space of free and expansive thought and acting from a critically integrated space, allowing for more community-sustaining work.”
Each of the 10 works in the exhibition, including a glowing, neon sculpture titled after her “Afro-now-ism” concept, offer dialogues and ways of making artificial intelligence systems more inclusive, accessible, representational, and transparent.
Visitors can also experience “Secret Garden,” which debuted at Sundance in January 2020. In it, Dinkins creates an immersive installation and web experience where viewers are invited to step inside a garden and encounter oral histories spanning generations of African American women.
According to Stamps Gallery director and exhibition curator Srimoyee Mitra, Dinkins—through her installations and workshops—develops a dialogue with the audience on the hierarchies embedded within machine learning and AI architecture and one’s individual agency in transforming the algorithms within it.
“We’re hoping audiences will explore and participate in a dialogue on creating a more inclusive, data-based narrative of what governance ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’ can look like in an AI-mediated world where care is encoded within our digital civic system,” she said.
The exhibition is supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The Stamps Gallery (201 S. Division St., Ann Arbor), operated by the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, is free and open to the public Wednesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and Thursday until 7 p.m. The most up-to-date COVID-19 safety policies can be found here.
- Sept. 16, 8 p.m. (virtual): The Penny Stamps Speaker Series: Stephanie Dinkins
- Sept. 24-25, 7 p.m.-midnight: DLECTRICITY project debut, “Stephanie Dinkins: On Love & Data & Holding Space, 2021“
- Oct. 7, 5-7 p.m. (virtual): Binary Calculations are Inadequate to Assess Us: A Workshop by Stephanie Dinkins
- Oct. 15, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (virtual): Building Equitable Ecologies of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning