How can the United Kingdom win Eurovision

Artificial Intelligence Art

Imagine Merkel and May taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest!
Inspired by Dada poems, the artist Libby Heaney explores with the help of the video installationEuro (re) vision the relationships between artificial intelligence, politics, and pop culture. In an interview, she tells us what inspired her to create this artistic video installation.

Merkel or May, who wins Euro (re) vision this year?
At least May won this competition ...
She seems much more expressive and even tries a few dance interludes (even if she fails mercilessly). Merkel may be a better leader, but in this song contest she can't score with her almost motionless facial expressions.

Tell us something about your project. What is Euro (re) vision?
Euro (re) vision is a video installation with Theresa May and Angela Merkel on the Euro (re) vision Song Contest recite Dada poems. I used deep learning face-swap algorithms that make me look like the two politicians during my presentation. The Dada poems were written by three machine learning algorithms that can process language at the level of characters and symbols and that were "wrongly" trained in political debates in the House of Commons and the Bundestag.

How did you come up with the idea to let Merkel and May take part in a Dadaist song competition?
In my art, I have been dealing for some time with the question of how machine learning algorithms can be used to generate good noise ’. Creating 'good noise' means using these systems in ways they weren't made for - shaking them until they almost break, to see what comes out, to see ourselves in a new way. I like the idea of ​​turning political debates into nonsense, a kind of Dada sound poem as a critique of the current political rhetoric. Performing this Dadaist song as May and Merkel was the next logical step. Exchanging my face with Mays or Merkels makes us question the ethics of machine learning and its connections to politics, as we now live in a world where words can simply be put into politicians' mouths with the help of artificial intelligence. But I also wanted to create a positive vision for the future, not just be critical. Shortly before the end of the song, the English and German language merge and May and Merkel recite the same words at the same time. I like the idea of ​​unification through new hybrid languages.

How did the recordings come about?
First, I spent hours watching May and Merkel's political speeches and recording their gestures to create a kind of library of movements that I could fall back on for the performance (I also watched some of May's dances). Lulus Eurovision contribution from 1969, Boom bang a bang, was also an influence on May's performance. At that time, Lulu was chosen by a referendum to interpret the song for Eurovision, instead of a better-known artist such as Elton John. When she won the competition on the song, Lulu said, "I know it's a bad song, but I won so I don't care." Merkel's appearance and Josh Brain's guitar arrangement for the installation are partly by Nicole A bit of peace, the 1982 Eurovision winner.
Echo Ru Yi helped me film in front of a green screen. I then used two deep learning face swap models to transform my face into Mays or Merkels - each model had to be trained for about a day to "see" me as May or Merkel. Then I split up all of the footage, removed my face from each one, and swapped my face for hers using the face-swap model. Finally, I built all the individual images back into the video and then cut it. It was a long process.

Are you a Eurovision fan?
Yeah it's funny! But (as you may have noticed) - I don't take it very seriously ...

What does Europe mean to you?
I am pro-European. I spent my Erasmus year in Freiburg and lived as an artist and physicist in many countries. I think it's extremely important to build bridges instead of walls. What is happening here at the moment because of Brexit makes me very unhappy. I hope that humorous art like that Euro (re) vision, may heal some of the cuts that have emerged in the UK between Leave and Remain voters.

To person

Libby Heaney is an artist, researcher and lecturer at the Royal College of Art. Libby is also a quantum computer scientist and her art deals with the future (positive) effects of new technologies - her focus is on the aspects of participation, language and (un) storytelling. Libby's work has been exhibited in the UK and around the world, including at the V&A, Tate Modern, Kosmopolis Literature Festival and Ars Electronica. She is currently a resident artist at Somerset House Studios, London.

Translation: Anja Büchele
March 2019