Proof of Work

Anna Ridler (UK)

Curatorial Context

Ever wondered about the actual origin of artificial intelligence datasets? Explore the intricate interplay between data classification and bias systems in automated processes. As tangible datasets sourced from the Thames, shells symbolise the physicality within a digital landscape and spark contemplation of change, flux and interconnectedness in human and natural worlds. The video work documents the laborious process of creating these datasets. Shining a light on the profound significance of a single object turns into a reflection of the world evolving around us.

Artwork Statement

To the artist, both the act of making and of subsequently revealing are integral aspects of their creative practice. Proof of Work reveals the labour that went into making the dataset for the NFT The Shell Record, and how it was then read by a machine to create synthetic shells. Composing the dataset took several months of finding and collecting shells from various locations along the Thames, one of the largest open archaeological sites in the world. It is possible to see the history of the river in the shells found along its banks.

There are numerous oyster shells, although partly as a result of pollution, oysters no longer live in the Thames. They were however prevalent in Victorian, Georgian and even Roman times, not to mention before that too. Meanwhile, new varieties of shells have been transported on various waves of globalisation and along new shipping routes. Scientists observe that the shells of organisms that populated the river since the Ice Age are now rare, in the wake of an influx of invasive species. These new species can in turn be expected to become fossil time-markers of the Anthropocene.

Artist Bio

Anna Ridler (UK) is an artist and researcher who is fascinated by the use of technologies to understand the world, especially when it comes to measurement, quantification and nature. She uses datasets to craft unique narratives. Her work has been exhibited globally, including in the Barbican Centre, Centre Pompidou, HEK Basel, The Photographers' Gallery, ZKM Karlsruhe, Ars Electronica and the Victoria and Albert Museum.