I have been exploring levels of communication and understanding in and between non-human animals and human observers. Each animal, including the human, experiences the world in a different way due to the particulars of its body, its senses, its adaptive programming, and really every part of its make-up. This experiential whole has been dubbed the umwelt of a particular animal. Part of the umwelt is a sensitivity to particular signals that are meaningful to the animal, often from members of the same species. Ants are very attuned to the chemical trails of their fellows. Songbirds are listening for the songs of their rivals. Humans glean great information about others' internal states from facial expressions. The world is a cacophony of signals, most essentially invisible to us. Arguably, part of the human umwelt is the application of extra meaning and narrative, especially anthropomorphic narrative, on the activities of other animals that we do perceive.

My recent work has been attempts to create a sort of messy web in the umwelts of specific non-human species and human beings by creating robotic systems that--in scale, form, behavior and gesture--make signals truly meaningful to the non-human species but often in a playful human-like narrative context. The robots use computer vision or sound signal processing to search the world for the signals of target species and then attempt to respond through similar gestural and audible signalling. The robots are trying to communicate with the animals and, in part, allow human communion with those animals in ways that our own bodies and umwelts don't allow. That human narrative stamps itself heavily onto the projects is confirmed by these becoming things like a hermaphroditic sexbot for Pileated Woodpeckers and a NORAD equivalent for Grey Squirrels.

Ian Ingram

Los Angeles, California