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A year ago and something I went to give a talk at MIT, invited by the art program. In the middle of the afternoon the director informed me that the robotics lab is very interested in joining the event. I showed my enthusiasm and at the time, I thought, we’re going to mess it up. My talk dealt in a speculative and strange way with the possibility of becoming a frog. The idea was not mine, but of a Swedish artist, Ingela Ihrman, who, indeed, turns into a frog. The work itself could be called performance, but I am not sure if the name is accurate. It is not about activating the body, space and external elements from a positive evaluation of the body itself as a work. It is simply about becoming a frog. Becoming a frog – think of the Frog Prince, the story of the Brothers Grimm – is a form of punishment that alludes to the need to lower your human fumes and place yourself at the foot of the lotus leaf. In the story, the spoilt little princess breaks her word to a frog and her father forces her to live with him. Luckily the frog, green and very slimy, is a prince more glossy than a winning lottery ticket. The crucial aspect of the story, for our time, is not the royal marriage, but the fact that the princess has spent a night with the frog. The Ihrmann frog could be that same frog, only in the morning it is still amphibious royal highness. With it, he resolves to catch up on human affairs and invests in his outer life, with a visit to the gym and the inner life, with a few sessions of yoga and meditation. The piece that in Ingela Ihrman’s work has a very fertile context – since it has also been a tadpole and flower on multiple occasions – raises many fundamental questions about the way we imagine intelligence, the interpellation between species, the legal rights of natural life, the conception of genders we have inherited and their way of thinking and including the body.
It is difficult to question the future of the autonomy of intelligent machines. A few weeks ago in Tokyo I held in my arms a little animal robot that responded to my love with an emotion unthinkable in plastic until recently. However, I know very well that if, at my delicate hormonal age, I add a few conversations with frogs, trees and other fauna, I know that I will not count on the applause of those who live enthusiastic about the gifts of artificial intelligence and deep learning. But I believe that, deep frogging is fundamental and necessary to learn to behave with life and think about a different social-natural contract. It goes without saying that the MIT people wanted to kiss a frog at all costs!
*Lit. Come out frog/ Turn out to be a flop
(Image Ingela Ihrman The Toad. Video (4’17) / performance 2013)