Bird Language, 2019


Video, 2 min 44 sec

The project was produced with the support of Garage Museum of Contemporary Art (Moscow)

Veronica Samotskaya, ornithologist, scientist-biologist, science popularizer, journalist
Natalia Soboleva, AI expert
Konstantin Yakovlev, PhD in Physics and Mathematics, AI expert
Nikita Prudnikov, musician, developer, AI expert

Inspired by the ideas of Noam Chomsky about innate linguistic structures—universal grammar—typical for both human language and animals and birds sign systems, the project explores the possibilities of AI within the context of bio-semiotics. The experience with machine learning and text demonstrates that AI captures this universal grammar by statistically extracting the patterns of language, therefore, in the case of the language of birds, machine learning can distinguish peculiar ‘birds morphemes’—semantic elements and forms of certain utterance. The AI is looking for patterns within bird sounds to build a mathematical model of the universal grammar of bird language.

In the first stage of the project, we trained a neural network on the sounds of nightingales to create communication between non-human agents: birds and the AI. This is a metaphor for communication between nature and technology in which a human being is not necessary.

The second stage of the project is a creation of an AI-translator from bird language to human language. We started to work with the great tit, one of the most widespread species from Europe to Asia. Now we are developing the second machine learning approach which allows us to see clusters. These clusters reveal the language structure and let us deconstruct the bird language into a series of phonemes, which we can use to build an AI-translator for interspecies communication. In this case AI is not only a mediator or interface between human beings and birds but rather an organ or full partner, semiotically active. It helps to understand birds’ subjectivity through language.

Elena Nikonole

Elena Nikonole

Elena Nikonole (Moscow) is a new media artist, curator and educator, whose field of interests embraces hybrid art, the new aesthetics, the internet of things and artificial intelligence. In her works she explores technology’s potential opportunities, as well as potential risks and dangers which te…