Associate Professor

Massachusetts College of Art + Design

Threads of Assumption

June 2021 | Goethe Institute, Boston MA

Threads of Assumption is an interactive performance and installation by Maria Finkelmeier, Sofie Hodara, U-Meleni Mhlaba-Adebo, and Martha Rettig.

The work responds to real stories about experienced bias, gathered on a virtual, anonymous conversation platform and analyzed by natural language processing artificial intelligence (AI). The resulting exhibition is a visual, sonic, and tactile representation of human truths and errors. The project asks us to reconsider our assumptions surrounding bias and what we accept as normal. How can we expect machines to extract meaning from what we don’t understand?

Data was collected from 22 sourced conversations. Each conversation was analyzed for emotional content and thematic language and transformed, by AI, into datasets. As artists, the concept of weaving this rigid data and the human experience became essential at every turn, similar to the way tactile weavings are made, with a tense warp and threaded weft.

The exhibition is centered around an interactive, room-scale loom, while hanging weavings, spoken word poetry, projections, and musical composition allows attendees to learn about and reflect upon the gathered data. The data we gathered did not teach us anything new. It simply reinforced our society’s acceptance of harmful structures and individual’s perpetuation of rigid assumptions.

The project premiered at the Goethe Institute, Boston’s Studio 170 in June 2021.
The work was made possible (in part) by a Live Arts Boston grant from The Boston Foundation.

Thanks to our 44 participants, including:
Annie Lundsten
Bianca Mauro
Brian Calhoon
Jasmine Lellock
Kendall Rhymer
Ksenija Komljenovic
Lindsay Akens
Lisa Daria Kennedy
Lydia Lucas
Maria Servellon
Natalie Gray
Sheryl Pace
Susan Hodara
Ulrike Rettig
Wendy Richmond