All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace takes its title from a 1967 poem by American writer Richard Brautigan, which describes a utopian future where computers are in harmony with and protective of mankind and nature, performing all the necessary work while we retreat back towards nature. In Sisto’s work, a computer generated voice recites Brautigan’s poem while a series of digitally rendered 3D objects with a sleek, mirrored finish, float weightlessly across the screen. Sisto’s work also shares its title with the 2011 BBC documentary series by filmmaker Adam Curtis, which has the view that computers have failed in their task of liberating humanity and have instead created a simplified and distorted world around us. In contrast to Sisto’s version where a robotic voice recites the poem in Curtis’ series the voice we hear is Brautigan himself, and the footage—bears in the wild, people in the nude, sunlight piercing through trees—is almost the opposite of Sisto’s synthetic environs. Adding a layer of complexity, the music in Sisto’s work is also generated by a complex computer algorithm developed by David Cope, a musician and scientist who spent over 30 years of his life teaching machines how to write music. Considering multiple expressions across recent decades, and specifically, through the lenses of Brautigan, Curtis, and even Cope—Sisto’s work is a meditation on our complex relationship with technology and the affective dimension of artificial intelligence.