The choice is yours: artist hackers voting machines for US election-themed depict

As the US elects its next chairman, R Luke DuBois explores how we make choices with an exhibit of machines inducing audio, selfies and hanging chads

R Luke DuBois an artist who works with data, and a professor at NYU. For his video Acceptance( 2016 ), he wrote software to synchronize Hillary Clinton and Donald Trumps convention acceptance speeches, so they appear to be reading each others terms in a never-ending crossfire. In another one of his recent installings, Take a Bullet for the City( 2014 ), a semiautomatic handgun connected to a police feed fires every time someone is shoot in New Orleans. For A More Perfect Union( 2011 ), DuBois downloaded 19 m online dating profiles and ran word analyses across them, used to identify how people in different cities described themselves. His most recent fascination is the process of voting how we vote, and how we make choices.

For his latest show, The Choice is Yours, currently on view at Bitforms gallery in New York, he hacked an array of old-school American voting machines hulking machines made of steel, built in the mid-2 0th century. They look like set pieces from a 1960 s episode of Doctor Who sci-fi contraptions that resemble proto-synthesizers, or vintage computers.

I was enamored by these machines, says DuBois. Theyre mechanical. Theyre like analog computers. Theres no electricity theyre these beautiful weird steel boxes with opaque mechanisms conceal under the faceplate. Theyre the classic example of a black box. You set the inputs in and you pull a lever and youre not sure what happens, but then you have to trust that your election is counted.

DuBois started collecting the voting machines earlier this year, and originally thought he would attain them into music boxes. Then he decided to hacker them in other ways, to create a larger commentary about voting. DuBois calls the hacked voting machines learning machines, inspired by classic concepts in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Guests to the exhibition was in fact vote on the machines, on an array of offbeat words drawn from various databases.

Voting Voting Machine, 2000. Photo: John Berens

A lot of the art I do is about language and politics, and language and communities, DuBois says. We dont pay attention as much as we should to to the words we use or the words “ve been given” we choose our terms. We choose to listen or not listen. Voting is the ultimate opting thing we do in national societies as a big group. Election day is selection day, but we make choices all the time, day to day.

One of the voting machines takes its options from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump television commercials, with Clinton and Trump edited out of them.

I got a listing of characteristics of campaign B-roll from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump commercials, DuBois says. If you take the campaign ads and remove footage from presidential candidates, and you look at the other footage “theyre using” its pretty specific. Hillary has tons of ads where she starts with a shot of blue sky. Donald Trump has lots of ads where he shows the American flag.

When Hillary indicates cities she indicates people, he continues. When Trump shows cities he tends to show empty playgrounds, or bombed-out public housing. Its pretty different. What I did was extract 12 situateds of words. Do you want blue or red? Sky or ground? Do you want a building or people? Based on how you choose you get an image montage you get your own personal one-minute video.

Another voting machine stimulates odd text mashups based on how you vote, employing classic volume titles like Pride and Prejudice and Tropic of Capricorn, drawn from the Project Gutenberg database. A voting machine next to it creates voice. It describes its categories from Luigi Russolos classic 1913 Futurist manifesto The Art of Noises; you can vote on categories like roaring, whistling, bang, hiss and mumble. When youre done voting, the machine makes you a custom piece of music collaged from the BBC sound consequences library .~ ATAGEND Another machine induces describes for you on a small screen, inspired by Logo, the brainchild of the late MIT professor Seymour Papert.

Learning Learning Machine# 4: Language, using a machine from 1960. Photo: John Berens

A red velvet curtain in a corner of the gallery encircles a giant voting machine from the 1950 s a behemoth weighing over 600 pounds. This machine describes its values from the Myers-Briggs personality exam. An overwhelming sea of selections faces you, in alphabetical order compassionate, dutiful, ecstatic, fashionable on a massive steel panel. The choices feel like they were part of the original machine; DuBois had a collaborator, the designer Ksenya Samarskaya, design a special vintage typeface for the choices that recalls the 1950 s.

A computer connected to the machine then seems up your choices on Instagram and the New York Times. A screen next to the machine shows the results in real day, in a disorienting, endless scrolling collage. Looking up the choices on Instagram brings up lots of strange selfies. The New York Times database brings up lots of obituaries. We tend to only use these values when people are dead, DuBois says. We dont tend to use these values to describe living people.

In another corner of the gallery lurks the infamous voting device that produced the hanging chads seen in Florida in the 2000 general elections, complete with plenty of punched card votes so you can try your hand at producing a hanging chad yourself. A glass vitrine nearby houses pieces of the old voting machines, so you can see the intriguing backs of them along with gears, keys and other ephemera.

By drilling it down to playing with these machines, and doing these seemingly low-stakes actions with media, I wanted people to just meditate on what it means to have alternatives, and to not understand what these options entail, DuBois says. I dont think that we guess as much as we should about it. This show is more lyrical; Im not trying to reach you over the head with a specific point of view.

Its an admittedly modest contribution to the discourse, but rather than making a show thats simply bashing Donald Trump, I wanted to get people to focus more on what Tuesday is all about, which is select. We have to decide. There are 300 -something million people in this country and they have to decide what country they want.

The Choice is Yours is on view at Bitforms in New York City until 23 December 2016. Acceptance( 2016) is currently on view in San Francisco, at the Bitforms 15 th anniversary present at Minnesota Street Project