Swipe The Flood Away

Tobias Bilgeri and Jens Isensee, 2024 | Interactive Video Installation

This interactive installation runs synchronously on 9 smartphones. The devices are fixed in a grid on a pedestal and a harmonious, virtual delirium initially plays out on their screens. The player can drift off into various AI-generated worlds and truths. However, this harmony is soon shattered by suddenly popping up disaster scenarios. Cell phone videos of devastating floods, such as those that have become rampant in the wake of the climate catastrophe in recent years, flood the screens like Instagram stories. Initially sporadically and then increasingly frequently, the ideal digital world is confronted with a harsh and brutal reality. In a way, AI simulations and disaster videos have the same hypnotic attraction. No wonder, since the field of tension between environmental dystopianism and AI tech utopianism is a field that is cultivated and harvested by the attention extractivism industry.

Paradoxically, the only action left to the player in these events is to swipe the disaster stories off the screen, as is familiar from social media apps. The hermetic game loop intensifies until the events flood all channels like a torrent. Here, the installation concept addresses how human consciousness tends to repress itself when overwhelmed by the complexity of the global situation, instead of moving into action. The escapist nature of media production and a belief in technology and progress that is as tempting as it is fatal are critically juxtaposed in the form of these lucid AI dreams. The simulation comes full circle when the question of the inevitability of this end finally appears on the screen and a new beginning is offered via swipe.