Lauren McCarthy is an artist based in Los Angeles whose work explores the social and technological systems and structures for being a person and interacting with other people. Lauren has exhibited at Ars Electronica, Conflux Festival, SIGGRAPH, LACMA, and the Japan Media Arts Festival, and worked on installations for the London Eye, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She is an Assistant Professor at UCLA Design Media Arts, and was previously a resident at CMU STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, Eyebeam, and Ars Electronica / QUT TRANSMIT3. She is the lead of the p5.js project.
LAUREN is a performance piece that reflects on smart home devices, the tensions between intimacy/privacy and convenience/loss of agency they present, and the role of human labor in the future of automation.
We are being sold smart devices that outfit our homes with surveillance cameras, sensors, and automated control offering us convenience, at the cost of loss of privacy and control over our lives and homes. We are meant to think these slick plastic pieces of technology are about utility, but the space they invade is personal. The home is the place where we are first socialized, first watched over, first cared for. What does it mean to have this role assumed by artificial intelligence? Each person’s home is the first site of their cultural education, what does it mean to have this shaped by technology created by a small, homogenous group of developers?
In this project, I attempt to become a human version of Amazon Alexa, a smart home intelligence for people in their own homes. The performance lasts three days. It begins with an installation of a series of custom designed networked smart devices (including cameras, microphones, switches, door locks, faucets, and other electronic devices). For three days, I remotely watch over the person 24/7 and control all aspects of their home. I attempt to be better than an AI because I can understand them as a person and anticipate their needs. The relationship that emerges will fall in the ambiguous space between human to machine and human to human.