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Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg The Substitute 2019 Image by Rob Battersby Installation view at FACT 4

The Substitute explores a paradox: our preoccupation with creating new life forms, while neglecting existing ones.

On 20 March 2018, headlines announced the death of Sudan, the last male northern white rhinoceros. We briefly mourned a subspecies lost to the human desire for the imagined life-enhancing properties of its horn, comforted that it might be brought back using biotechnology.

Ginsberg’s life-size projection presents a digital resurrection of the rhino roaming in a virtual world (his movement around the space determined by an artificial intelligence (AI) experiment by technology and research company, DeepMind. The rhino becomes more ‘real’ as it discovers the limits of its environment. The rhino’s form and sound toggle from pixelation to lifelike, glitching in and out of existence. Experimental data is played on a second screen, showing the path and development of the AI’s internal navigational system.

Commissioned by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and Cube design museum, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.