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1. a creative collective
2. an interdisciplinary ecosystem
3. an art tech movement


1. a creative collective
2. an interdisciplinary ecosystem
3. an art tech movement

Open for Interpretation: a Black Box Gallery


Public gallery at SEAS

Against unassuming black facades, the spirit of experimental theater thrives in the black box, daring tradition, forging the avant-garde in the performing arts, and thrashing against fourth walls until they break. Here, abstractions and intimacy beget a creative, conceptual freedom; the as-is serves as the best prop for expression.

Yet the abstractions presented by computational fields present a much more obfuscated, confused reality: through complex algorithms and convoluted processing, black-box algorithms classify and predict without us needing to understand system internals. However, given greater understanding of the biases and risks present in this black-box approach, we are no longer satisfied with this compromise. Interpretability and explainability – two subfields of machine learning dedicated to the development of algorithms whose calculations and outputs can be understood using explicit language – have recently emerged as new ways of disambiguating the translation of human input into machine output.

With the opening of our student-directed gallery, Conflux asks visitors, artists, and technologists alike to think outside the white cube and inside these black boxes. We transform the museum into a participatory environment where visitors not only view artworks but also interact with them, thereby changing their initial conditions for the next viewer and fostering a more dynamic relationship between the artists’ intention, the viewer’s interpretation, and the methods of co-creation. Furthermore, we hope the space provides students with a venue for interrogating whether open-sourcing the artistic process enables the community benefit in creative fields as it does in research fields: by showcasing extensive documentation of process, we hope to inspire more reflective approaches in data/code art and build a repository that helps students get started in making their own data/code art, all while inspiring campus discourse on algorithmic interpretability and explainability. 

The principles for operation are:
  1. All methods (e.g. code, construction) must be documented and made open-source to visitors (but can be access-restricted to members of the Harvard community depending on the wishes of the artist)
  2. No gallery labels may be used
  3. Artworks should place an emphasis on interactivity and participatory viewing
  4. All art shown must be open to interpretation



Chris Barber
Sofia Chen
Ida Chen
Hannah Chun
Toyosi Egbebi
Jing Ge
Alice, Guo
Helen He
Emily Hu
(Alif, Jakir)
Hannah Nguyen
Robin, Pan
Katie Robinson
Karen Song
Wency Suo
Alina Taratorin
Claire Yang
Peggy Yin
Anya Zhang
Xinyi Christine Zhang

Advised by Prof. Martin Wattenberg
© Conflux 2024 |