Art Basel Hong Kong 2019: A.I. - Abstract Intelligence

27 - 31 March 2019

What is A.I.? Firstly, we may think of artifical intelligence; that calculating rationality of machines, often a cinematic cue for scenes of dystopian badlands, seething with robots, relentlessly grinding humanity underfoot. At ABHK 2019, Ora-Ora aims at nothing less than the re-invention of our communal perception of A.I.. We will explore its meaning, finally unveiling a celebration of A.I. at its most humane, most life-affirming, a new A.I.: Abstract Intelligence.

The link between abstraction and intelligence is not new in psychological science: in 1921, Lewis Terman observed that intelligence is "The ability to carry out abstract thinking." A year prior, American psychologist Edward Lee Thorndike coined the phrase “abstract intelligence” to describe the first of a triumvirate of intelligence categories, mutually independent of each other. Abstract intelligence, he argued, was core to verbal and symbolic reasoning (the type of intelligence which I.Q. tests primarily measure). So, psychology affirms that to be abstract is not to disregard structural frameworks, but rather to operate within a framework which we are only now beginning to understand.

So, what would abstract intelligence mean in an artistic context? Abstraction is a familiar term: creations not immediately recognizable as figurative approximations of the world around us. What of abstract intelligence then? Perhaps it would be an amalgam of all of Thornike's intelligence classifications: an intelligence which clings to its abstraction whilst applying mechanical skill (Thorndike's second strand of intelligence) with social intelligence (his third strand). Mechanical skill requires constant practice – a progressively expanding chain of stimulus and response. Thorndike called this connectionism, and we refer to it as meticulousness. Social intelligence is a requirement too; our artists will not abdicate emotion, either feeling it or inspiring it.

Perhaps our artists' abstract intelligence will be phronesis, that ancient Greek concept of intelligence which is both practical and benevolent, both meticulous and pure, inspiring of virtue. To define the outcome is to speculate. We will urge our artists to work towards their definition of abstract intelligence, and to do so in a way which exhibits not only the practical and technical, but also a wisdom which is the diametric opposite of the received definition of A.I..


Ora-Ora's booth will be a journey where Abstract Intelligence is experienced both actively and subconsciously; an expedition of opportunity, emotion (and yes, benevolence). Can the two understandings of A.I. be unified in a harmonious communion of the technical and the emotional, or will they do battle? Ora-Ora's A.I. will present artists at their most meticulous and at their most humane.


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