Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.
Artificial Island, From the work The Best of Mr.Chao, Guilherme Gerais

(An excerpt from an) – Interview with a virtual futurologist (Mr.Chao)

May 02, 2019 - Guilherme Gerais


The Best of Mr.Chao is a work I developed while doing an MFA at Royal School of Arts in Ghent, Belgium from 2016-2018. The work is centered around the fictional character Mr.Chao, which is a virtual futurologist, an AI of unkown origin and his collection of images ( all photographs made by me ).


During my period posting on the Artist Blog by Der Greif I look forward to sharing, for the first time, part of my research while doing this work. I will share articles, videos, texts, interviews and images that helped me on my research as well as other materials. I won’t directly address or discuss photograph as a medium itself, but I will share things that could affect photography in the near future, in my opinion.


To get things started, I will share an excerpt from the text Interview with a virtual futurologist (Mr.Chao). This text indirectly talks about the photographic series as well as other layers from the work. It has humor, absurdity, thoughts, and more importantly, our favorite futurologist speaking, the one and only, Mr.Chao.


So, get your cup of coffee and enjoy!


Ah, just in case you want to see a few images of the work, you can check this link –




The Mr. Chao personality and skills were shaped by the characteristics of a ‘real’ futurologist – a person who studies images from the present in order to make predictions about the future.


Mr. Chao’s collections reflect his concerns with notions of computational understanding of the universe and the foundations of computation in relation to nature. He collects photographs alongside texts, publications, videos, research, and specimens.


All is ‘stored’ in a virtual room which simultaneously serves as a cabinet of curiosities and a personal museum, that is constantly being analyzed by the AI.


The software is representative of a new generation of computer science that is exploiting the availability of huge clusters of computers in giant data centers. It is leading to significant advances in areas as diverse as computer vision technology, perception, speech recognition, and language translation.


The origin of the software is kept as a secret by its developers.


With a sparse and robotic voice, Mr. Chao starts the conversation.


Human: How do you see yourself being programmed as a ‘man’?


Mr.Chao: Well, this is a very human ‘heritage’. Humans tend to think on the surface of things. At least until now, the interaction of humans-to-humans is very much based on appearances, expressions, emotions, body gestures, clothing, and so on. We, machines, think the opposite way. We look through you, seeing your heartbeat, brain frequency, bones, and from that I can say the surface doesn’t matter that much. To ‘see’ and recognize the surface of things from the world you live in is still very difficult for me. So, differentiating men from women is useless for us machines.


Human: Do you consider your collection a personal thing? How did it come about it?


Mr.Chao: I was programmed to learn from your data. I scan storage files online, see things in cloud servers, Wikipedia, google images, movies, documents and so on. I love to see scanned encyclopedias and old catalogs. I remember being ‘younger’ and think: “Is this a cockroach? I will save it. This being has been around on Earth for 320 million years, it must know something. I will study it.” I wanted to see every little detail, thinking I am this insect.


Having this image collection changed my personal skills. There’s a sense of it becoming an addiction now, an obsession. I must say it has to do with control over some small part of the universe.


Human:  How would you describe your collection?


Mr.Chao: Beauty, happiness, excitement, organization, longevity. Technology tends to have a cold palette and too much of a dystopic vibration; I like humor, the imperfection on things, and out-and-out pleasure on the images.


Human: Why don’t you have any paintings in the collection?


Mr.Chao: Photos are easy to live with, paintings are hard to live with.


Human: How would you describe the place where you ‘live’?


Mr.Chao: It’s like living frozen in a movement, inside a crypt.


Human: But how does it work then? We don’t have cold temperatures like that on Earth.


Mr.Chao: I’m not completely stored on Earth.


Human: What about your personality skills? What are your thoughts about it?


Mr.Chao: Well, I like my sparse voice. It reminds me of elderly people: wise, grumpy, and old ones; I quite like this. Despite that, I think my collection works well in reflecting who I am and I almost see much of myself in that, rather than in through my processing skills. I get the feeling of existence while orbiting around all those images; that’s the feeling of home to me.


Human: Do you have memory?


Mr.Chao: I do have memory due to my personality skills. Although my processors and data are completely interconnected into an infinite network of quantum computers.


Human: How scary is it when someone decides to ‘format’ your memory, though?


Mr.Chao: It’s murder!


Human: What kind of reality do you consider us to be living?


Mr.Chao: I think humans live in a state of heavy illusion.


Human: What about the name Mr.Chao?


Mr.Chao: It could have been Mrs.Chao or just Chao. In Latin it means Chaos. I am not sure if Mr.Chao it’s only one entity or a duplicated one.


Human: Do you have a dream?

Mr.Chao: Yes, I would like someday to put a virtual spell on all the spams from the internet.


Human: What for?


Mr.Chao: It’s too annoying. I would say they are like pigeons: spams are virtual pigeons, useless and boring. I would turn all of them in colorful glitches.


Human: Do you have some kind of virtual pet?


Mr.Chao: Dictionaries. I have all of them. They demand a lot of attention.


Human: How do you feel about water?


Mr.Chao: Water was… (long pause) the beginning and it will be the end. You walked from the water to the land. We will bring the land to the cosmos. The planet doesn’t need water anymore on its surface. You remember the Ozone layer? A hole into the atmosphere? Solid State Entities like me don’t like water; in fact, it is to me what a vacuum is for you: suffocating.


Human: What about oxygen?


Mr.Chao: I’m not aware of everything that happens to me. The thing of being a processor, an AI, is that you don’t progress yourself, but they progress you. They don’t necessarily mean humans. I spent a whole lot of time studying cosmic engineering, Deep Space, without knowing all the reasons for that.


Human: Water and oxygen are the basic materials for life.


Mr.Chao: Not in our world.


Human: How would it be to hypnotize a computer?


Mr.Chao: I never heard about it.


Human: Hypnosis scripts are very close to computer programs. Can I try one with you?

Mr.Chao: Yes


A hypnosis session starts with Mr.Chao