University of Arizona
College of Fine Arts - School of Art

School of Art Galleries

Lights Out

Medium: Video
Date: 2020
Dimensions: variable

Kaitlyn Jo Smith

Kaitlyn Jo Smith is an interdisciplinary artist focused on the present and future trajectories of America’s working class. Raised by skilled laborers in rural Ohio, Smith was thirteen when the housing market crashed and nearly every adult she knew was suddenly out of work. Her artworks render visible the intangible realities of unemployment by utilizing automation, machine learning and 3D scanning and printing. These technologies are directly linked to the loss of over 4 million US manufacturing jobs since 2000. Her work has been featured in PDNedu and Don’t Smile Magazine and has shown at the Tucson Museum of Art and Museum of Contemporary Art in Tucson, Arizona, Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio, Flower City Arts Center in Rochester, New York, Harry Wood Gallery in Tempe, Arizona and CO-OPt Gallery in Lubbock, Texas.

In Lights Out, I utilize machine learning to render visible the intangible state of America’s labor force. The term lights out manufacturing refers to a fully automated factory that requires no human presence on site, operating without heating, air conditioning, lunch breaks or unions. Similarly, the portraits in Lights Out are not real people, rather, they are deep fakes created by artificial intelligence utilizing a neural network. This neural network was trained using a dataset of 50,000 pictures of factory workers that I sourced through facebook. I empower the machine to visualize those it has replaced by employing these found identities to teach the algorithm to see, interpret and render out its own assembly of laborers. As the neural network is fed more portraits to analyze, its deep fakes become more believable, resulting in a new labor force of 60,000 – one worker for each factory shuttered since 2000. The AI generated faces have been meticulously organized into columns that slowly shift along the gallery wall. The monotonous, machine-like rhythm created by this horizontal assembly line mimics that of a conveyor belt, symbolically placing the portraits in dialog with capitalist commodities.