The Substitute explores a paradox: our preoccupation with creating new life forms, while neglecting existing ones. A northern white rhino is digitally brought back to life, informed by developments in the human creation of artificial intelligence (AI). Based on research from AI lab DeepMind, the rhino performs as an artificial agent, an autonomous entity that learns from its environment. A life-size projection, 5m wide, shows the artificial rhino roaming in a virtual world, becoming more “real” as it comprehends the limits of the space. As the artificial rhino habituates to its space, its form and sound toggle from pixilation to lifelike—reminding the viewer that this living, breathing rhino, coming to life without its natural context, is entirely artificial.
Sound Designer’s Scoop
“This was an intriguing project to work on. The main challenge was to think about how the Rhino might ‘find its voice’ through the course of each sequence, almost learning how to talk. Northern White Rhinos have a very advanced vocabulary and we managed to source some research into the subject with the catch that all the material was on old DV tapes. With approximately 60 secs of useable sounds extracted from 20 hours of footage the project required some heavy lifting in the foley and sound design” (Chris Timpson).