• The Conversation Machine, 2022

    Neuroscientists, psychologists, neurolinguists, and philosophers from five continents are broadcast in an assembly of thirty-two screens. They investigate neuroscientific experiments and their philosophical and ethical dimensions.

    Like the brain, The Conversation Machine—videos, interviews, and orchestration by Taryn Simon, produced by Fondazione Prada for the exhibition—is a self-organizing system. It responds to itself, continually constructing and assimilating its own order and disorder.

    In clips excerpted from over 140 hours of interviews, participants appear to listen and respond to each other’s statements. They enter and exit. Objects that refer to their work appear in flashes. Clusters of discussants migrate across the screens. Others sit in sustained, active silence. Like the brain, the conversation morphs according to a logic of prediction and surprise. Attention and distraction maximize and minimize responsiveness in human brains. The “listeners” in the conversation mark this balance while the viewer’s attention is by turns captured, lost, redirected, tested, split, and pulled. Objects, empty chairs, fidgets, speaker and screen changes incorporate distraction—the conductor of attention—directly into the environment.

    The participants talk about research, experiments, ideas of “me,” survival, biological changes carved by trauma. The brain feeds on mismatch, connections, stimuli. The conversation navigates a history of neuroscientific knowledge-making marked by rigor, breakthrough, and discovery—but also by error, transgression, and uncertainty. It attends also to the continual presence of absences gaps, missing perspectives, hidden layers. It tracks forces of violence, extinction, and oblivion embedded in our brains alongside creativity, regeneration, and resilience.