The first time you visit AMYGDALA, you might be a little confused. The multimedia installation, brought to campus by Georgia Tech Arts, sits on the Arts Plaza in front of the Ferst center, and consists of a ring of electronic panels that tower above your head.
Standing in the center of the ring, you will observe that each panel is lit up with an endless, constantly-changing stream of text, colors, and patterns while space-y, meditative music plays in the background.
But if you head inside the Ferst Center to take a look at the indoor component of the installation, it starts to make sense. The generative data installation, created by Italian production company fuse*, pulls information from millions of tweets, sorts them into one of six emotions (happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, surprise) and then produces a dazzling visual representation.
Inside the Ferst center, several screens document the average emotions and trending topics of the internet at a given time. A spider-web of lines and points stretches across one wall, with colors that coordinate to each emotion. When Prince Philip died on April 9, AMYGDALA went from being predominantly yellow (happy) to predominantly gray (sad). The indoor installation also displays trending tweets and hashtags, offering a snapshot of what the world is talking about from K-pop to the MLB to Taylor Swift’s
One screen advertises AMYGDALA’s primary purpose — to “draw the sound and light of the world’s emotions.” Through a process called sentiment analysis, the installation draws on millions of tweets to represent “the collective emotional state of the internet.” In two months of activity, it can process 80 million tweets
Named after a part of the human brain that deals with emotions and memory, AMYGDALA was first created by fuse* in 2016. The installation on Tech’s campus is the first time that it has ever been shown outdoors in the U.S.
Much of fuse’s work, including AMYGDALA, focuses on building a collective sense of empathy while exploring the creative possibilities of emerging technology. Sozo Artists, which represents fuse in the U.S., was instrumental in bringing AMYGDALA to campus. Sozo works to build bridges between art and technology with projects like AMYGDALA.
“Tech is a natural place for Sozo to pitch a new project,” said Sozo vice president and director of sales Ichun Yeh. “We want to show how technology can be used in an arts context. We have been in dialogue with Aaron [Shackleford, Director of Georgia Tech Arts] about the most organic way to present the new frontier of arts and technology, and AMYDGALA was the answer.”
Sozo is rooted in the performing arts, and new media work like AMYGDALA is comparatively newer for the agency. Yeh says that the installation offers an opportunity to do away with the idea that technology is somehow cold or inaccessible.
AMYGDALA is a visual representation of the unprecedented connectedness of the times we live in, meant to instill a collective sense of how humanity is feeling.
“I’m personally amazed by how new media can trigger emotions,” Yeh said. “When all the technological details are handled with sensitivity and artistry, new media arts are so accessible, intimate even, with the younger generation.”
Regardless of whether you understand what you are seeing, viewing AMYGDALA is a uniquely immersive, hypnotic experience. You can stand there for a long time without getting tired of watching the virtual stream-of-consciousness pass you by.
The panels are arranged in a ring, a postmodern Stonehenge, and standing in their center you feel connected not only to the flow of data but also to time and maybe even to humanity.
AMYGDALA does what all good art does — it takes something ordinary and makes it extraordinary.
It is oddly comforting to see the onslaught of information that we scroll by every day made into something beautiful, like maybe it matters after all.
And when you see something you care about pop up for a second, whether it is a word, a hashtag or a tweet, you feel a little less alone.
AMYGDALA will be open and free to view on the Arts Plaza in front of the Ferst Center until April 30.
Learn more about AMYGDALA at fuseworks.it. For more information about the installation on campus, visit arts.gatech.edu/amygdala.