Peruvian architect and sound artist Nicolás Kisic Aguirre’s (SMACT ’18) ‘Dispositivo de Realidad Mutada’ (DRM) project uses machine (un)learning to explore the role of language in shaping reality. 

‘Realidad Mutada’, a 360-degree icosahedron with sixteen ambisonic sound channels, expresses the compositions Aguirre created from his experiments with linguistic disobedience. The DRM is an inhabitable ambisonic sculpture: the listener puts their head in the helmet-like structure where they will experience a wash of sounds that may even appear kilometers away from the 10cm distance between their head and the machine.

This immersive soundscape transports the listener to an (im)possible world that found its roots in language. For Aguirre, “Language reflects, and sometimes even creates the world around us. A project like this suggests a different reality, hence the name ‘mutated reality”. The first step in his language experiment involved feeding a Natural Language Processing (NLP) model with the book Las tres mitades de Ino Moxo y otros brujos de la Amazonía by César Calvo. This book was written by the Peruvian poet as an ode to disobedient forms of the Spanish language where he highlights the beauty of “incorrect” Spanish and words smuggled into Spanish from indigenous Peruvian languages. 

As these words were presented to fine-tune an NLP model trained to recognize ‘correct’ European Spanish, the resulting tokens appear with compelling invented words that are an expression of unlearned Spanish. Aguirre’s poetic interpretation of these words, like ‘orpuso’, relies on acoustic compositions instead of written forms. Orpuso resonated immediately with the designer who interpreted it as a meditative chant from schools of fish. 

As part of the DRM process, Aguirre travelled to the Indigenous Community of San Francisco de Yarinacocha, the biggest Shipibo-Conibo village in the Amazon. There he captured a song, the Icaro, by his friend Rawa Muñoz, a Shipibo-Conibo artist. These Icaros weave the writings of César Calvo with the parallel worlds that emerge from Aguirre’s experiments with artificial intelligence. With the help of Rawa, Aguirre also captured ambisonic field recordings around San Francisco that, together with Rawa’s Icaro, feature in part the 360-degree acoustic compositional works. 

The DRM serves a step in the wider mission of Aguirre to elevate robots from objects into subjects that disobey their purpose. This disobedient robot mission involves what the artist calls “machine unlearning” — like the one experienced by the NLP model. 

The project is still a work in progress: Aguirre continues to develop compositional works born from his experience with the mutated language and expand the DRM realities. He also hopes to foster a sustained relationship with ‘his robots’ (although he emphasizes that they are artists in themselves and not his objects) towards the goal of disobedience.