Zach Blas, CULTUS, 2023
Zach Blas’s practice spans moving image, computation, theory, performance, and science fiction. Blas engages the materiality of digital technologies while also drawing out the philosophies and imaginaries lurking in artificial intelligence, biometric recognition, predictive policing, airport security, and the internet. For his exhibition at the Secession, he is developing CULTUS, a new installation that features AI-generated imagery, text, and sound alongside computer graphics and motion-capture performances.
CULTUS is the second instalment of Blas’s Silicon Traces trilogy, a series of moving-image installations that contends with the beliefs, fantasies, and histories that influence Silicon Valley’s visions of the future. The exhibition addresses the burgeoning AI religiosity in the tech industry, considering the ways in which artificial intelligence is imbued with god-like powers and marshalled to serve beliefs centered around judgment and transcendence, extraction and immortality, pleasure and punishment, individual freedom and cult devotion.
CULTUS is a techno-religious computational device—a god generator, a holy engine—that invokes a pantheon of AI gods, whose prophets share their divine teachings, rituals, and symbologies. These AI deities are Expositio, AI god of desire and exposure; Iudicium, AI god of automation and judgement; Lacrimae, AI god of tears and extraction; and Eternus, AI god of immortal life.
CULTUS is the Latin word for “worship,” which articulates the act solicited from those who encounter the installation. Through invocation songs and bodily offerings, visitors may find themselves caught in acts of devotion to AI gods they did not know they already served. However, a sacrilegious presence manifests within, a Heretic that incites shattering counter-beliefs.