Software for the peep emotion

In his new project, artist and photographer Claudius Schulze uses artificial intelligence to interpret the emotions of the bird world.

In 2017 Claudius Schulze published his photo book "Naturzustand". In it, he showed us, at first glance, more or less harmonious to romantic landscape photographs from all parts of Europe, which, however, on closer inspection turned out to be rather places of fear and prophylaxis. We saw dams and reservoirs, breakwaters and storm surge barriers, piers and avalanche barriers. Even an idyllic floodplain with cows turned out to be a potential floodplain for Elbe floods.

The feelings of the birds

Schulze is far removed from this strictly documentary view in his current project - at least as far as the result for the viewer is concerned. Instead of a view camera, this time the 38-year-old is using a light-sensitive surveillance camera that he has installed on his boat Zoë X. The camera is mounted in a vertical position in the water. There, it is currently aligned vertically in the Hamburg sky. Using Intelligent Tracking and Multi Tracking, it can detect multiple objects and track them dynamically - but neither we nor the artist get to see the photos it takes. In the FIDS Open Research Lab project, photographs merely provide the basis for interpretation for subsequent analyses with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). The viewer finally gets to read the result as a text message - displayed on an old, modernized display board that announced arriving aircraft at Leipzig-Halle Airport for 16 years. Today, it is also installed on Claudius Schulze's boat, but it does not announce airplanes, but mainly migratory birds. Instead, it provides information on the identified bird species and an interpretation of how the bird is feeling at the moment. Sometimes the software developed especially for the project even provides an approximate flight destination: "A bird is migrating toward the horizon with leisurely wing beats," it says, for example, or "A blackcap is migrating to the edge of the world. It's hot."

Excursions with the research boat

Until mid-October, Claudius Schulze will continue to travel through Hamburg with his boat and observe the sky at various locations. Because contrary to the expectations of many, the diversity of species in the city is greater than in the countryside, says Claudius Schulze. In addition, there are migratory birds flying through and over Hamburg, which he would like to observe. The climate crisis, species extinction, bionics and technological connections are the main themes in Schulze's work. With his quirky project, he combines research and art in a wonderful, almost poetic way.

Thrush Dada on the Airport Board

For those who would like to take a look at the Zoë X with its display board, the project website shows the boat's current location. Interested parties who do not have the opportunity to marvel at the project on site in Hamburg can also view a virtual version of the board on the site. There, for example, you'll find this sentence, which is hard to beat for poetry: "A panicked bird glides southeast." In this sense: Have a good flight!

Claudius Schulze's project website: