Homunculus

For a long time, it was believed that only humans were capable of understanding causal relationships, being creative and acting according to moral principles. The basis for this is the human brain, which is unique in its complexity. In the age of deep learning, where machines learn to “think” independently with the help of neuronal structures, this view must be revised.

The term homunculus (= Latin for “little man”) refers to an artificially created human being – and stands for mankind’s dream of being able to construct a being according to its own imagination, with the help of the latest technology. This idea has already been used in many literary works, for example in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Today, we are closer to this idea than ever before. In the age of Deep Learning, it is no longer alchemists or scientists, but programmers who teach artificial intelligences to generate human-like faces independently and deceptively real. Ingenious, scary or dangerous?

In this work we are confronted with a series of such artificial portraits. In a strange way, they communicate with us: their eyes seem to explore the space and their facial expressions change. Recognising faces and understanding non-verbal communication shapes us as a human species and as social beings. But how do we react when an AI tries to imitate precisely this ability? Does it want to deceive us? Communicate with us? Test us?

  • Erika Kassnel-Henneberg
    Director
  • Erika Kassnel-Henneberg
    Producer
  • Project Type:
    Animation, Experimental
  • Genres:
    Video Art
  • Runtime:
    6 minutes 45 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 15, 2022
  • Country of Origin:
    Germany
  • Country of Filming:
    Germany
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
Director Biography - Erika Kassnel-Henneberg

Erika Kassnel-Henneberg is a conceptual and video artist with German-Romanian roots. In her works, she explores the process of remembering and questions identity as an artificial construct between reality and fiction.

Erika Kassnel-Henneberg studied Restoration at the Bern University of the Arts / CH and Interactive Media at the Augsburg University of Applied Sciences / DE. She has been working as an artist since 2010 and lives in Anhausen near Augsburg. Her works are shown nationally and internationally in exhibitions and festivals, such as FILE – Electronic Language International Festival in Sao Paulo / BRA or IVAHM – International Video Art House Madrid / ES.

In 2013 she received the Art Award of the City of Krumbach for her work Heimat is Somewhere Else and in 2022 she won the Art Award of the District of Augsburg for her body of work. In addition to her artistic work, she teaches at the Faculty of Design at Augsburg University of Applied Sciences.

She is a member of GEDOK Munich, BBK Schwaben Nord and Augsburg and Kunstverein Aichach.

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Director Statement

We are the narrative of our own memory and the memory of others about us. This is how our identity is formed in a chronological context.

But today we know that memory is neither true, nor objective, nor complete. We lay traces, collect documents and photographs, and archive them. I see in this an existential doubt: who am I really if I cannot trust my memory and the memory of others? If I leave no traces, did I ever exist?

In the digital age, cloud archives with huge storage volumes are our memory. Algorithms collect vast amounts of data and traces that we leave behind in the infinite expanse of the internet. They find everything and forget nothing. They seem to know us better than we know ourselves. And more than that – they even know with statistical probability what we will do next.
Can they tell us who we are? Can we trust them? Or are these also just distorted images of artificial intelligences whose logic and intentions no one can see through?

The focus of my interest is the human being with his subjective perception and his ability to remember, to forget, to associate and – consciously or unconsciously – to think up his own utopias.