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Hayal Pozanti – Deep Learning

Hayal Pozanti: Deep Learning

Hayal Pozanti’s first solo museum exhibition continues her exploration and long-term interest in the impact of technological advancements on collective and individual experience. The exhibition is titled Deep Learning in reference to “software [that] attempts to mimic the activity in layers of neurons in the neocortex”1 and is inspired by Pozanti’s research into the cognitive and physiological differences between the human mind and artificial intelligence. Through the works in this exhibition, spanning paintings and digital animations, Pozanti “encourages the viewer to question the quantification of intellect posited by the ‘machine vs. human’ discourse, and suggests that this is an opportune moment to celebrate global commonalities by asking: ‘What is it that makes us human?’” 2 Deep Learning is presented in the Sound Gallery and features a new body of work that premieres the artist’s three largest paintings to date, each

measuring approximately 60 x 132 inches. These are presented alongside two 60 x 60 inch paintings and three video animations, which for the first time introduce a sound component. The horizontal monumentality of the large-scale paintings resembles supersize public screens, whereas the square canvases mimic the default display mode of images on social media. The screens that display the animations are suspended from the ceiling at above eye level and come together back to back, forming a circle reminiscent of the streaming screens at a stock exchange, airport, bus terminal, or other public area where high-speed information is consumed. Visually, Pozanti’s work relies on an invented alphabet of thirty-one shapes, which she has named “Instant Paradise.” This lexicon is source material for all her paintings, sculptures, and animations. The format of her past works has been based on either the square, as inspired by the Instagram icon and

60, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco

the microchip, or the rectangular, proportionate to smartphone screens, but scaled up to body size. As a self-generative image-making strategy, Pozanti’s sign system spins off inestimable permutations, as evidenced in the paintings she has created over the past several years, which have grown into a combination of letters that enable the configuration of more surreal overlays. Her resultant forms are suggestive of futuristic robots, logos, and biomorphic objects, with a nod to Dadaist Jean (Hans) Arp’s painted wood reliefs of floating amoeba-like shapes and Ken Price’s exquisite tabletop ceramics of blobs or lumps of molten rock. Conceptually, they echo the image generative processes of artists such as Sol LeWitt and Allan McCollum, whose The Shapes Project is based on a similar image-breeding system. Her interest in creating sounds for her letters in the form of phonemes can also be seen in the sound poems of Kurt Schwitters, as well as that of the Surrealists, whose active espousal of the subconscious is of

ongoing interest to Pozanti. She has previously compared the Internet to “a contemporary collective dreamscape that allows our minds to make connections heretofore impossible.”3 Recently, Pozanti’s shapes have each been assigned a number and a letter from the English alphabet and thus can be used as “personalized ciphers” to embody data related to her conceptual framework. Focusing on topics ranging from censorship to privacy to public welfare under the influence of technological advancements, the artist has been acting as a digital to analog encryption system, preserving information that could be lost or altered in the cloud. For instance the title of 60 (2015), a 40 x 40 inch square painting, reflects the “percentage of college graduate Americans who feel that computers will not be able to produce works of art that are on a par with those produced by humans within the next 50 years.” A darker and more alarming stat is implanted in 31 (2015), the

SIXTY SEVEN, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco

“percentage of writers in free countries who have deliberately steered clear of certain topics in personal phone conversations or e-mail messages due to fear of government surveillance.”5 As in her prior work, the pieces at The Aldrich continue to use this lexicon to generate compositions through encryption. All the paintings in the exhibition are based on numbers relating to attributes that are unique to humans, inimitable via computer programming. One of the panoramic paintings, strikingly reminiscent of Pablo Picasso’s infamous portrait of war, Guernica, contains ten Instant Paradise letters to spell out “sixty-seven,” the number of milliseconds it takes for the human brain to form a microexpression: “a brief, involuntary facial expression that is shown on the face of humans according to the emotions that are being experienced.”6 Another square painting resembles a logo skewed out of proportion. It embodies the number 18, which is the “number of variations in smiles that human beings

possess.”7 The new animations, on the other hand, are transcriptions of conversations that the artist has been having with online chat bots in English, the resulting dialogue shown via encrypted translation into Instant Paradise. The sound component is the artist reading the transcribed text in the phonemes of her created language. Pozanti’s Instant Paradise and the Deep Learning software share a common goal. The repeating forms that the artist invented fire off neurons through the same pathways in the brain, generating patterns that will become more recognizable through repetition. Deep Learning relies on mimicking this process. “The software learns, in a very real sense, to recognize patterns in digital representations of sounds, images, and other data.”8 In essence, the more times we are confronted with the artist’s characters, the more recognizable they become to us, “turning us, the viewers, into intelligences that the artist is ‘programming.’” 9

Prior to her interest in abstraction as a form of communication, Pozanti worked with appropriated imagery that she mined from the darker regions of the Internet. Her obsessive research toward finding the ultimate image led her to conclude that “attention was the most valuable commodity in an exponentially growing image economy.”10 With this in mind, the artist defined a new primary objective: to create “original content” at a moment when it appeared impossible to do so. Pozanti “abandoned appropriation in order to disengage [herself] from ‘signs,’ and committed [herself] to creating ‘floating signifiers’ that never repeat.”11 Her process of invention was “to place a circle within a square and indent the contours of both shapes intuitively at random intervals.”12 Over several years, this allowed her to create hundreds of unique shapes. This methodology was informed, Pozanti says, by significant research into the drawings of ancient civilizations, cuneiform and kilim motifs, to better understand the systems involved in generating

originating forms. The “alphabet” was never intended to be a finite number of characters. As she generated more and more forms the artist began noticing patterns and repetitions within her shapes. This led to a narrowing and streamlining of her visual vocabulary and the arrival at thirty-one primary shapes. The name Instant Paradise refers to the “sense of relief” the artist felt at “being liberated from the unending yearning for self-gratification through the online feed.”13 Pozanti remarks that her decision to “abandon a practice that relied on collecting images was as much a visceral reaction to consuming data flow as it was to excessive time spent in front of screens to satisfy this urge.” By stepping away from the computer, she aimed to “bring her physical body into the creative process” and to “liberate her aesthetic sensibility from the premeditated constructs of digital programs.”14 By returning to a less mediated process of the mind directly

31, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco

informing the hand, whether through drawing or through mixing colors physically as opposed to a “color picker,� Pozanti says she wished to break free of automation. Never fully deserting the digital, but experiencing the delight of the corporeal, she found herself merging the virtual and the physical through her work. In her practice today, Pozanti negotiates two seemingly opposing image-producing interfaces: the digital, with its mechanical, frenetic pace, and traditional studio practice, with its slowness, imperfection, and tactile insistence. Her movement from freehand to track pad reinforces her intent, so that the final composition is equally successful online and in person. -Amy Smith-Stewart, curator

Hayal Pozanti was born in 1983 in Istanbul, Turkey, where she received her BA in Visual Arts and Communication Design from Sabanci University in 2004. After college, she worked in the fashion and music industries to design and produce shop windows for high-end retail, create fabric patterns for street style clothing, design posters for nightclubs and program websites for clients ranging from boutique hotels to indie music radio stations.15 Her mother, a software engineer, created computer games to keep her young daughter entertained while she worked; her father, a doctor who holds a PhD in healthcare administration, managed what was once the Middle East’s only regional Gamma Knife center.16 Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Pozanti developed an interest in technology and the implications brought on by it. She left Istanbul in 2009 for the Yale School of Art and completed her MFA in Painting and Printmaking in 2011. She now lives and works in New York City.

Works in the Exhibition All dimensions h x w x d in inches

18, 2015 Source data: number of variations in smiles that human beings possess Acrylic on canvas 60 x 60 268, 2015 Source data: miles per hour that information can be processed in the brain Acrylic on canvas 60 x 60

Data Set 2: Health and Tech (animation still), 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco


Robert D. Hof, “Deep Learning,” MIT Technology Review, April 23, 2013: http://www.

2-3. Email conversation with the artist, October 5, 2015. Ibid. 4-5. On the checklists or labels for her exhibitions, Pozanti includes an explanation of the data her titles reference. 6.

Vanessa Van Edwards ,“Guide to Reading “Microexpressions,” in Science of People: http://www.


Email conversation with the artist, October 5, 2015.


Hof, “Deep Learning.”

9-16. Email conversation with the artist, October 5, 2015.

ONE HUNDRED, 2015 Source data: billion of neurons in the brain and stars in the Milky Way Acrylic on canvas 60 x 132 ONE HUNDRED TWENTY TWO, 2015 Source data: number of dreams that a human being has each month Acrylic on canvas 60 x 132 Simpler Terms 1, 2015 Digital animation, color, sound; 3:00 minutes, looped Simpler Terms 2, 2015 Digital animation, color, sound; 3:00 minutes, looped Simpler Terms 3, 2015 Digital animation, color, sound; 3:00 minutes, looped SIXTY-SEVEN, 2015 Source data: milliseconds it takes for the human brain to form a microexpression Acrylic on canvas 60 x 132 Courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum Founded by Larry Aldrich in 1964, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum is dedicated to fostering the work of innovative artists whose ideas and interpretations of the world around us serve as a platform to encourage creative thinking. It is the only museum in Connecticut devoted to contemporary art, and throughout its fifty-year history has engaged its community with thoughtprovoking exhibitions and education programs.

Board of Trustees Eric G. Diefenbach, Chairman; Linda M. Dugan, Vice-Chairman; William Burback, Treasurer/ Secretary; Diana Bowes; Chris Doyle; Annabelle K. Garrett; Georganne Aldrich Heller, Honorary Trustee; Michael Joo; Neil Marcus; Kathleen O’Grady; Lori L. Ordover; Martin Sosnoff, Trustee Emeritus; John Tremaine

Hayal Pozanti: Deep Learning Curated by Amy Smith-Stewart November, 15, 2015, through April 3, 2016 The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

The Aldrich, in addition to significant support from its Board of Trustees, receives contributions from many dedicated friends and patrons. Major funding for Museum programs and operations has been provided by the Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Office of the Arts; the National Endowment for the Arts; the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation; the Leir Charitable Foundations; The Goldstone Family Foundation; the Anne S. Richardson Fund; and Fairfield Fine Art.

Alyson Baker, Executive Director Larry Aldrich (1906–2001), Founder

Cover Hayal Pozanti, 18, 2015 Courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco

258 Main Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 203.438.4519

Generous support for Hayal Pozanti: Deep Learning is provided by Jennifer and Claude Amadeo and Patrons Circle contributors Serge and Ian Krawiecki Gazes.

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum: Hayal Pozanti: Deep Learning  

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum: Hayal Pozanti: Deep Learning  

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum