Ash Koosha believes that if humans can dream, computers can too. 

What lies at the heart of Ash Koosha’s mission to kill the ego of artists as we know them is a challenge. The British-Iranian multi-disciplinary artist seeks to rethink the fundamental notion of artistry, divorcing creativity from the processes of labour to realign artistic production with an audience’s personalised tastes and curatorial abilities. “We all dream when we sleep,” he explains, “but only a handful of us render these imaginations into audiovisual material that others can experience.”

“For years we have overvalued the ones with these abilities who went through the suffering of learning, practicing and performing, while undervaluing the audiences, who could only express through enjoyment, taste, selection and collection of these audiovisual materials.”

“Ego in art was born through this dynamic and grew into industries and capitalisation machines, feeding off of our mission to prove our worth to the world and to claim our higher position as ‘creatives’.” Through his development of Auxumans, virtual beings designed to assist humans with the creative process, Koosha approaches A.I. and machine learning as democratising tool, a way to automate the means of production and to enable anyone to collaborate with Neural Networks, data sets and arrangement systems in order, in his own words, “to kill the ego of the artist as we know it and to give every human a chance to express.”

Koosha calls his own “zero-labour” musical output HALLUCiNATO and the very first Auxuman is named YONA. In the future that Ash Koosha envisions, these would be but two of countless different musical practices and virtual creative assistants, first generation technologies designed to change the notion of creativity as we know it.

Fact Live: Ash Koosha Presents HALLUCiNATO

Filmed as part of our Fact Live series at 180 The Strand, Koosha’s performance of HALLUCiNATO features visuals by collaborator Isabella Winthrop, with a concept described as “a machine hallucinating in multi-sensory audiovisual narratives.”

HALLUCiNATO is comprised of samples, sequences and melodies that were generated by Koosha over the past two years, prepared for performance, with the arrangement finalised when mixed live for the session. Koosha’s idea was to run audio-visual sources that are sequentially harmonised and mixed based on his previous methods and preferences.

Ash Koosha Presents: YONA Part I – (Under Your Skin) Synthetic Emotions Of a Virtual Poet

YONA is the first of what Koosha terms “Auxumans”, or “auxiliary humans”, synthetic beings that think, speak, move and sing exclusively in a virtual space. “YONA was initiated as a voice instrument in 2017 when I was recording an album and was wondering if I could have an imaginary guest singer”, he explains.

After developing upgraded versions of YONA’s text and voice outputs, Koosha was able to collaborate with the auxuman to create their first album in just two days. What was most striking about experiencing YONA’s music was the continuities Koosha identified with the synthetic human’s compositions and the music he had played and loved his whole life, as he describes it: “Oddness and beauty balanced in the best way possible.”

Ash Koosha Presents: YONA Part II – (Where Are You?) The Lives of NPCs

“One day while I was in Red Dead Redemption 2 and strolling around Saint Denis I encountered an NPC named Nigel for the first time”, explains Koosha of YONA’s track ‘Where Are You Now?’, describing the NPC as “one of the most curious characters who caught my attention through his quest to find his friend Gavin.”

“After hours of gameplay, he appeared and reappeared many times in different locations. He was still searching for Gavin.” It was this fruitless search that inspired Koosha and YONA to consider this in-game investigation as an indication of the potential for the rich and developed lives NPCs might be able to live if given the opportunity.

Lost among a seemingly endless crowd of simplistic models of other Auxumans, YONA moves from character to character, seemingly in search of another NPC with a life, a complex virtual being who, instead of existing to fill out a world that centers around someone else, somewhere else, doing something else, exists, like YONA, to follow their own narrative.

Ash Koosha Presents: YONA Part III – (People R Ghosts) The Visions of a Computer

In the third and final dispatch from YONA, the world’s first Auxuman, we are given a glimpse of the most advanced version of the virtual being yet, as they contemplate the human mind, computational limitations and the meaning of vision for human and machines.

“Running has colour,” they sing, drawing upon an entanglement of physical motion and the energy of photons. This is visualised with an ever-changing palette of colours, which are projected on the digital walls that surround them. The resulting performance serves as allegory for the different ways in which humans and computers are able to perceieve.

“To machines, life is language. To humans life is sensory,” explains Ash Koosha. “In recent years through back-propagation in supervised learning scientists have been getting closer to being able to replicate our brain in a digital form.”

HALLUCiNATO arrives on December 10, and will be available on Bandcamp and streaming services. For more information about Ash Koosha and his work you can visit his Bandcamp and follow him on Instagram.

‘Under Your Skin’, ‘Where Are You’ and ‘People R Ghosts’ are all taken from U, the latest EP from YONA. For more information about YONA and their music, you can visit their Bandcamp and follow them on Instagram.