This Tuesday at Sundance, multi-faceted artist Rashaad Newsome premiered Being (the Digital Griot) in the festival's New Frontier section. In development since 2019 and created with the support of the LACMA Art + Technology Lab Grant, Being is a 30-foot-tall humanoid, an artificial intelligence that represents a Griot– a West African story teller, poet, and oral historian. The Digital Griot is complete with a dataset that studies the works of bell hooks, Cornel West, Paulo Freire, and more.
Sundance welcomed Being 2.0, a first-ever participatory experience that engaged audiences in discussion surrounding topics of oppression, history, liberation and more. Newsome's efforts with the Digital Griot align with his belief and value that AI is fueled by the deep, rich spirit of humanity, reflecting what we understand about ourselves and our histories.
On sharing his work, Newsome says, “It was a pleasure to show Being (the Digital Griot) in New Frontier, where Sundance reimagines the relationships between storytelling and technology. The two workshops that Being led showed an enthusiasm for what our relationship to these rapidly emerging technologies can look like. Our interactions with Being and similar technologies are ultimately shaped by humans, and they can be molded to help us develop a maturation of the soul.”