lauren mccarthy


Someone, 2018

is an expansion on McCarthy’s previous work LAUREN, in which the artist attempted to become a human version of Amazon’s home-intelligence device, Alexa. LAUREN was a durational performance lasting several days that started with an installation of custom-designed, networked smart devices, including cameras, microphones, lights, and outlets, in participants’ homes. The networked installation enabled McCarthy to remotely watch over participants 24/7 and control many aspects of their environments. With LAUREN, McCarthy aimed to be superior to an artificial intelligence assistant, her humanity allowing her to better relate to participants’ needs. Ultimately, the relationship between the artist and the participants fell into an ambiguous space between that of human-machine and human-human. SOMEONE takes the issues raised by LAUREN—intimacy versus privacy, convenience versus agency, and the role of human labor in the future of automation, among others—a step further by asking exhibition visitors to participate in the responsibilities of being a home-intelligence device. Selected by an open call, the four participants in SOMEONE span a range of ages, backgrounds, living situations, and perspectives on smart-home technology. McCarthy has worked with the participants to build custom smart-home configurations using a variety of devices to capture each of their personal needs. The four participants’ homes are remotely watched and controlled via a command center installed within the gallery. From their connected homes, the participants can directly request an action by calling out for “SOMEONE.” The request will be heard and seen from the command center in the gallery, thus inviting exhibition visitors to respond to the home observation and control—stepping in as the human intelligence. SOMEONE was created with support from a Google Focused Research Award and the Harvestworks New Works Residency. Software and hardware developed by Harvey Moon and Josh Billions. Interface developed by Lauren McCarthy. Furniture designed in collaboration with and fabrication by Lela Barclay de Tolly. Smart home participant collaborators include Valeria Haedo, Adelle Lin, Amanda McDonald Crowley, and Ksenya Samarskaya. Lauren McCarthy is a Los Angeles-based artist whose work examines how issues of surveillance, automation, and networks affect our social relationships. She is the creator of p5.js, an open source platform for learning creative expression through code online. McCarthy’s work has been exhibited internationally, including at the Barbican Centre, London; Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria; Conflux Festival, New York; SIGGRAPH; Onassis Cultural Center, New York; IDFA DocLab, Amsterdam; and the Japan Media Arts Festival, Tokyo. McCarthy is an Assistant Professor at University of California, Los Angeles Design Media Arts program. She is a Sundance Institute Fellow and was previously a resident at CMU STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at the College of Fine Arts, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh; Eyebeam, New York; Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at New York University; and Ars Electronica / QUT TRANSMIT³.