Follow the Drinking Gourd

2022. Virtual Reality, Machine Learning.

Follow the Drinking Gourd is an autobiographical exploration of the histories of my ancestors which were lost due to the transatlantic slave trade. This VR-based work is presented as an interactive game in which the user, standing on a ship in open sea, can look around and discover constellations of stars. Each star in the sky represents a short clip of music from across the Americas. As constellations are discovered, a neural network generates a path connecting the various musical traditions of the African diaspora and tracing them back to their ancient kingdoms of origin.

In-game footage

External map

Simultaneously, on a separate screen, users can see a map showing the real-life trajectories that are traced by the player’s constellations. As various users play the game, the trajectories on the map accumulate and grow. Over time, the paths on the map generate a map of the transatlantic slave trade.