The Critical Caryatids

A lyrical journey through Musikverein, the world’s first “fully objective concert hall”, where 32 golden statues observe, measure and analyse musical performance.

When machines judge human activity, we expect fairness and unbiased truth. Without hesitation, we hand over responsibility and accept A.I. authority – it’s the promise of complete objectivity.

To explore this strange phenomenon, Johanna Pichlbauer takes us on a journey through Musikverein,
one of the world’s most famous concert halls. Home to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, it is renowned for its great acoustics and for its completely golden concert hall: the “Goldene Saal”. The balconies looking down at the stage are carried by 32 golden caryatids. For almost 150 years, the elegant statues stood still, quiet observers of the
musical activity in the famous hall. Today, they will speak out. Equipped with artificial intelligence, they sense the most subtle vibration from every angle of the hall. They measure and analyze, consult and then write their famous review…

Through film, poetics and imagery, the project transports us to a future where machines and algorithms judge music performances. We witness
an actual performance, and hear opinions of people who either play music or attend concerts in this brave new world. The project raises questions about the politics and aesthetics of algorithmic objectivity.