The Murmur of the Dying, 2023


Kunsthall Trondheim
Attention After Technology
13 October 2023 – 28 January 2024



The Murmur of the Dying, 2023
video, stereo sound, 10:40 min

The central character in Femke Herregraven’s film, ‘The Murmur of the Dying’ (2023) is an artificial intelligence (AI) called Elaine. AI learns language-based communication by interpreting language as code, and by filtering out noise. Sounds like sighs, gasps or “mmm” vocalisations are categorised as noise and omitted from translation into code. In order to train Elaine, Herregraven has used a variety of sound recordings, such as medicinal recordings of individuals with respiratory illnesses and speech impediments, and members of her own family, like the babbling of her own children, and breathing and mumbling of her parents on their dying bed. Aside from these recordings, the film features medical images that are used to train computer vision models to detect anomalies (disease) in the human body.

Herregraven seeks to carefully approach complex questions regarding illness, and moments in which the linguistic and
visual codes we are accustomed to lean on for efficient communication cease to exist. If AI is trained to see patterns and make sense of sounds and signals, in Herregraven’s work, signals cannot reliably be distinguished from noise, and noise
cannot be translated into linguistic code.

In delving into questions around AI, voice, language, breath, community, and death, the artist asks what forms of communication may lie beyond language, and whether a shared language is needed to create community. As AI plays an increasing role in our day-to-day lives, a crucial question is whether we will be able to learn to decipher nuances of voice and empathy beyond language and words. Can AI learn to relate at moments where words simply fail, such as sitting by a person’s death bed? – Text by Stefanie Hessler



















In collaboration with the ‘Community of the Dying’
Voice – Elaine v0.2.2310
Elaine AI modeling – Gabor Szalatnyai
Sound – BJ Nilsen
Thanks to Flavia Dzodan, Martijn van Boven
Commissioned by Kunsthall Trondheim, Art Hub Copenhagen, Tropical Papers, State of Concept Athens and Swiss Institute
Funded by the European Union