Figures in Limbo

Figures in Limbo is a partially playable 3D audio-visual animation (approx 15min), exploring representations of the body in computer vision & datasets and parallels in (mostly western) art history. The work investigates how cultural and historical biases are now being translated into code and what this means.  The title Figures in Limbo refers to the central panel of Bosch’s triptych The Last Judgement.

Figures in Limbo was researched and conceptualized on Space Studios' London Art + Tech residency 2020 and was subsequently awarded an Arts Council England Project Grant for production and to work with musician Barney Kass on the sound track. The artwork will be premiered online as part of Space Studio's Art+Tech showcase in 2021.

The artwork's narrative was initially composed by an AI (Google's Universal Sentence Encoder) weaving together descriptions of so-called canonical artworks such as Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man with fragments of text from academic papers on AI pose estimation, highlighting the continued search for the ideal body. The AI-composed narrative was then playfully deconstructed by Heaney to open up space for other possibilities, as on screen, alternative bodies emerge. Hybrid, boundaryless and formless & weaving between worlds, these neglected bodies evade the omnipresent gaze of computer vision.