About the Artwork
How do we share traditional knowledge within our families and communities? Why do we share it? How can ancestral knowledge shape our futures? Stephanie Comilang and Simon Speiser’s exhibition Piña, Why is the sky Blue? explores the many ways people share knowledge across generations. This exhibition includes three parts: a video, a virtual-reality video, and patchwork designs printed on piña (pineapple) fabric.
The video shows how Piña, an artificial intelligence, was created. (Piña with a capital “P” is the name of the artificial intelligence, and piña with a lowercase “p” means “pineapple.”) Stephanie Comilang and Simon Speiser show us how they gathered Indigenous worldviews from Ecuador and the Philippines to share with Piña. The knowledge that the artists share with Piña comes from matriarchal, or women-led, communities. Piña’s awareness of the world around her is shaped by this knowledge. In turn, she can share this information with future generations.
The exhibition also has designs printed on piña (pineapple) paper hanging on the walls. The designs represent the traditions and worldviews shared by Ecuadorian and Filipino communities. In the video, you can see these designs being floated on rivers and other bodies of water. They are being sent to Piña, so that she can store the information that they hold.
In this exhibition, the artists imagine how technologies, nature, mind, and spirit, can come together to preserve generations of knowledge. These works focus on the legacy and power of Indigenous worldviews that have existed long before colonization, and how they could shape our future. They also help us understand the connections between Ecuadorian and Filippinx people spread around the world.
About the Artists
Stephanie Comilang is a Filipina-Canadian artist living in Berlin and Toronto. She uses video and installation art to explore many topics. These topics include the movement of people around the world, the work and lives of immigrants, the ideas of family and caring for each other, and the idea of home. She often blends the past, present, and future together in her art. To achieve this, she often tells stories about current social issues using futuristic technologies like cellphones, drones, and artificial intelligence. She roots these modern stories in the past by letting her work be informed by traditional, female-led knowledge from her own cultural community. This helps her look at the world in a way that centers Indigenous perspectives.
Stephanie’s family plays a key role in her artwork. Her dad was an Elvis impersonator, and one of her first films explores that experience. Her mother voices Paraiso (or Paradise), the ghost/drone character in her film Lumapit Sa Akin, Paraiso (Come to Me Paradise).
Stephanie Comilang was the winner of the 2019 Sobey Art Award. In a video created by the National Gallery of Canada to mark the award, she said “I like listening to a truth but then adding mine on top of that, creating a new narrative on top of an existing one.” (Sobey Art Award 2019 – Stephanie Comilang – YouTube
Simon Speiser is an Ecuadorian-German artist living in Berlin. He works in many mediums, including writing, sculpture, virtual reality, installations, and printmaking. He uses these mediums to create works that provide sensory experiences.
Many of Simon’s artworks use a range of senses to expand on the fantastic settings in his short stories. Some of his science-fiction stories explore the changing relationship between nature, technology, and people. He often explores the idea of origins- where people, plants, animals, and worlds begin. Like Stephanie Comilang, he also explores ideas around home, migration, and the treatment of immigrant workers.
Family also plays a role in Simon’s artwork. Simon’s daughter Lotte voices the return of the character Paradise in a film installation he created with Stephanie Comilang. The film is titled the smile you are smiling you were smiling then but I can’t remember where or when.
- Artificial Intelligence (sometimes called AI) – A computer system meant to do a task that would normally be done by a human. Often these systems can learn from their experiences and interact with people in some way.
- Worldview – How someone understands the world based on their past experiences and cultural background.
- Indigenous –The people whose ancestors originally lived in a particular place. This word is often used specifically to describe people whose ancestors lived in countries before other nations (especially European nations) tried to colonize them. This word can also describe something belonging to those people.
- Matriarchy– A group of people that are led primarily by women.
- Ancestral knowledge –Information passed through families and communities, based on ways of life that have been around for a long time. This kind of knowledge often challenges the knowledge that comes out of colonial and capitalist societies.
- How do we share ancestral knowledge within our families and communities? Why do we share it?
- How can ancestral knowledge shape our futures?
- How is sharing information part of caring for a community? Think about examples from the video part of the exhibition.
Imagine you could make your own artificial intelligence. How would it be different from the Siris and the Alexas of the world today?
Imagine you could make your own artificial intelligence. How would it be different from the Siris and the Alexas of the world today? Inspired by Stephanie Comilang and Simon Speiser’s artwork Piña, Why is the sky Blue, make plans for your own unique AI that shares information that’s important to you.
- Pencils and erasers
- Worksheet or pieces of paper
- Your choice of medium- markers, pencil crayons, crayons, etc.
- Fill out the four brainstorm questions on the worksheet provided to help you think about different aspects of the artificial intelligence (AI) you would design. Or, you can respond to these questions on a separate piece of paper:
- What kind of information will your AI know about? Think about what information you care about and want to share with others. Think about what information reflects your own worldview, who you are, and what you are interested in.
- How will your AI learn information? Who will teach your AI? How will they do it? Feel free to be imaginative and come up with new and unique ways your AI could collect information.
- How will people use your AI? Some examples could be typing to it, talking with it visiting it in virtual reality, or showing it pictures. You might think of other new ways to interact with your AI.
- What does your AI look or sound like? Or will it be experienced through other senses? If your AI will be seen when you interact with it, does it look like a person, animal, or other living thing? Does it have a voice to reply to you with? Does it share information with you by speaking, or in a different way?
- In the center of the worksheet or on a separate paper, draw a picture of what you imagine your AI to look like. You might show your AI with a body or shape. Or you could draw the logo or symbol you would use for your AI, or even just what they would look like in your imagination as you interact with them.
You could follow up this planning project by creating your own AI in programming software.
- mBlock – mBlock Blog – Articles about STEAM education, Arduino, Coding for kids
- Dialogflow (a Google program meant for creating chatbots)- Dialogflow | Google Cloud