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‘A space for reflection’: AI, porn and chatbots examined at Sex, Desire and Data exhibition in Montreal


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A new multi-sensory exhibition in Montreal, Canada is set to examine AI in relation to porn, romantic chatbots and sex workers’ lives, in a show the creators say will “open up discussions on intimacy”.

Sex, Desire and Data will show at Montreal’s PHI Centre venue from August 31, 2023 until October 31. It involves a chatbot called Max, described as “casual, curious and sensitive”, guiding visitors through various tech and art displays and experiences, each examining aspects of technology and sex.

One of these is a visual piece called Results, by creative director Sandra Rodriguez plus artist and developer Édouard Lanctôt-Benoît, that features abstract imagery with intimate connotations. Organizers said the work “questions what AI can understand about human desire when trained by millions of pornographic videos, generally aimed at the same dominant gaze.”

keywords: exhibition, AI, sex
Seeing red: The Vibrato section of Sex, Desire and Data

Another part of the exhibition is the Algo Match Game, for which visitors play a game based on dating apps and their biases. Another is Vibrato by Par Laura Mannelli, based around a red room that “situates the exploration of desire within physical, sensual and emotional corporeality.”

Show Me Yours, another section of the exhibition, looks at sex workers’ work and living spaces, and the intersection between them.

The exhibition will also feature a ‘confessional’ section, in which visitors can anonymously share stories about their own experience, and listen to those of others.

The exhibition is a collaboration between PHI Studio, which makes immersive experiences and XR exhibitions, production company a_BAHN and sex-positive media organization Club Sexu.

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A group of people standing in front of a porn projection at a sex and tech exhibition in Montreal, featuring chatbots and AI.
An exhibition section called Queering the Map

“In a society where digital technology and algorithms are taking more and more place in our lives, we wanted to open up discussions on intimacy to collectively explore how new technologies influence and transform our emotional and sexual lives. We also wanted to create a space for reflection that is lively, interactive, and multi-sensory,” the organizers said.

You can chat to the exhibition’s chatbox Max online ahead of the opening. In a brief text chat with SEXTECHGUIDE, Max cheekily asked if we kept our socks on or off (presumably meaning during sex) then quickly moved the topic of conversation to exhibition ticket purchases.

Tickets to the exhibition, which is open to those aged 16 and above, cost $33.50 CAD ($25 USD).

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Jamie F
Jamie F

Jamie is a freelance writer, contributing to outlets such as The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, CNN and Vice, among others. He is also the creative force behind the Audible podcast Beast Master.

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