Skip to content

CLASSES, 2021, single channel video with sound; 14min26.

CLASSES is a video essay exploring the entanglements between machine learning classification and social class(ification). 

Social class and its entanglements hold significant importance for Heaney due to her personal background originating from a working-class environment.

The artwork takes place in a simulated model of a London council estate, where Heaney lives. Machine and human voices playfully narrate aspects of Heaney’s in depth research into accented speech recognition, natural language processing* and public space surveillance. 

Parts of the narrative are written by GPT-J AI model highlighting its biases towards working class people. The work shows how historical and cultural biases around social class are being translated into code and how this affects people’s material conditions. 

Towards the end of the essay, Heaney finds inspiration in her community gardening on the estate to propose a rewilded AI, that removes rigid hierarchical categories to build stronger relations between people and the world. 

*GPT-J, Facebook’s FastText and GloVe word embeddings. 

CLASSES was commissioned by the Science Gallery Dublin.

It has been exhibited at BIAS, Science Gallery, Dublin, 2021; House of Mirrors, HMKV, Dortmund, 2022; Creative Machine, Goldsmiths, London; 2022; Privacy Techtonics, OTOKA, online, 2022, Present Futures, CCA, Glasgow, 2023, v01ces, Galerie Nord, Berlin, 2023.


Installation: BIAS, Science Gallery Dublin, March 31st – April 21st, 2021. Photo: Freddie Stevens. 

Libby Heaney HMKV Dortmund CLASSESLibby Heaney HMKV Dortmund CLASSES
Libby Heaney CLASSES HMKV DortmundLibby Heaney CLASSES HMKV Dortmund

Installation: HMKV, Dortmund, 2022. Photo: Mareike Tocha. 

Extracts from CLASSES