Art and AI #1

Subtitled ‘What needs to happen for artificial intelligence to make fine art’, this is a fascinating read on current thinking about art and AI. The author, Hideki Nakazawa, one of the curators of the Artificial Intelligence Art and Aesthetics exhibition in Japan, thinks that, whilst we’re not there yet, we’re not too far away.

Waiting For the Robot Rembrandt
True AI fine art will be both painfully boring and highly stimulating, and that will be represent progress. Beauty, after all, cannot be quantified, and the very act of questioning the definition of aesthetics moves all art forward—something we’ve seen over and over again in the history of human-made art. The realization of AI will bring new dimensions to these questions. It will also be a triumph of materialism, further eroding the specialness of the human species and unveiling a world that has neither mystery nor God in which humans are merely machines made of inanimate materials. If we are right, it will also bring a new generation of artists, and with them, new Eiffel towers beyond our wildest imagination.

The pieces within that exhibition are grouped into four categories: human-made art with human aesthetics, human-made art with machine aesthetics, machine-made art with human aesthetics, and finally machine-made art with machine aesthetics. It’s that last category we’re interested in, but frustratingly it contained “no machine-made art, because none exists that also reflects machine aesthetics. The category was a useful placeholder—and, as we’ll learn, it was not entirely empty.”

What a great way to clarify where all these artworks, projects and systems sit. All too often we find AI and other computer systems merely mimicking the creation of art: the final product may look like art, but without the autonomous intention — without the AI wanting to create for its own sake — the AI is just a tool of the artist-behind-the-curtain, the programmer. For example:

‘Way to Artist’, intelligent robots and a human artist sketch the same image alongside each other
In the very thought-inspiring short film “Way to Artist” by TeamVOID, an artificially intelligent robotic arm and a human artist sit alongside one another to sketch the same image at the same time although with different skills. Without a word spoken, film loudly questions the role that artificial intelligence has within the creative process by putting the robots to the test.

More interestingly, here’s a wonderful piece that would have been placed in the second group of Nakazawa’s exhibition, human-made art with machine aesthetics.

Sarah Meyohas combines virtual reality, 10,000 roses and artificial intelligence in Cloud of Petals
Lastly, visitors can engage with a VR component, an element that replicates Sarah’s initial dream of the petals. There are six different screens and headsets – in a room filled with a customised rose scent – which are all gaze-activated to manipulate the AI generated petals. For example, in one headset petals explode into pixels as soon as you set your eyes on them.

And perhaps category three for these, machine-made art with human aesthetics?

A ‘neurographer’ puts the art in artificial intelligence
Claude Monet used brushes, Jackson Pollock liked a trowel, and Cartier-Bresson toted a Leica. Mario Klingemann makes art using artificial neural networks.

Yes, androids do dream of electric sheep
“Google sets up feedback loop in its image recognition neural network – which looks for patterns in pictures – creating hallucinatory images of animals, buildings and landscapes which veer from beautiful to terrifying.”

Don’t know where to place this one, however — art as a symptom of an AI’s mental ill health?

This artificial intelligence is designed to be mentally unstable
“At one end, we see all the characteristic symptoms of mental illness, hallucinations, attention deficit and mania,” Thaler says. “At the other, we have reduced cognitive flow and depression.” This process is illustrated by DABUS’s artistic output, which combines and mutates images in a progressively more surreal stream of consciousness.

The book is mightier than the wall?

We mustn’t lose sight of how impactful ideas can be, in a seemingly thoughtless world.

A single book disrupts the foundation of a brick wall by Jorge Méndez Blake
Although a larger metaphor could be applied to the installation no matter what piece of literature was chosen, Méndez Blake specifically selected The Castle to pay tribute to Kafka’s lifestyle and work. The novelist was a deeply introverted figure who wrote privately throughout his life, and was only published posthumously by his friend Max Brod. This minimal, yet poignant presence is reflected in the brick work—Kafka’s novel showcasing how a small idea can have a monumental presence.

Here, a book becomes part of a larger sculpture, but there are many examples of artworks that use books as sculptural objects in themselves.

Carving culture: sculptural masterpieces made from old books
Sensual, rugged, breathtakingly intricate, ranging from “literary jewelry” to paperback chess sets to giant area rugs woven of discarded book spines, these cut and carved tomes remind us that art is not a thing but a way — a way of being in the world that transmutes its dead cells into living materials, its cultural legacy into ever-evolving art forms and creative sensibilities.

Artist takes old books and gives them new life as intricate sculptures
Dettmer puts on display his pretty fantastic creations, all while explaining how he sees the book — as a body, a technology, a tool, a machine, a landscape, a case study in archaeology.

Old books transformed into imaginative 3D illustrations of fairy tale scenes
Seattle-based artist Isobelle Ouzman creates 3D illustrations from discarded books found in dumpsters, recycling bins, and local thrift stores. She adopts these forgotten books as a way to give them a second life, cutting and pasting the books into layered fairy tale scenes instead of letting the novels collect dust or fall prey to the elements.

Or how about books as building material? They form the foundations of our societies, as well as being products of them.

Defiant Democracy: Parthenon replica made of 100,000 banned books
The titles include Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, Cecily von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and George Orwell’s 1984. The books are wrapped around a metal frame like a shingled facade with their covers visible, proving that despite efforts to keep their contents from the public, they have endured.

5,000 books pour out of a building in Spain
Artist Alicia Martin’s tornado of books shoot out a window like a burst of water from a giant hose. The Spain-based artist’s sculptural installation at Casa de America, Madrid depicts a cavalcade of books streaming out of the side of a building. The whirlwind of literature defies gravity and draws attention with its grandeur size. There have been three site-specific installations, thus far, of the massive sculptural works in this series known as Biografias, translated as Biographies, that each feature approximately 5,000 books sprawled out around and atop one another.

Not sure what category to put these books in, though.

Terry Border’s whimsical ‘Wiry limbs, paper backs’ series
Books come to life as characters of themselves.

I think we’ve stopped worrying about the death of the book now, but even if there are fewer books in our libraries, there may well be more in our galleries.

Be mindful, watch more TV

This is great. There are so many mindfulness and relaxation apps out there, this one fits right in.

Multimedia artist Stine Deja satirises the commodification of mindfulness
“I was inspired by the over-branding, commercialisation and digitisation of relaxation. You can literally buy everything and I thought it would be interesting to push the idea of commercial wellbeing to the max,” Stine explains. Her idea came to her after she read a study that showed people to be more relaxed when watching television than when sleeping. The 4K Zen hat, which works like a portable darkroom, is symbolic of more than commercialised mental happiness. It also visualises an ideal of wellbeing as one of isolation, where the user escapes into a virtual universe inhabited only by them.

Capturing silence and noise

Cameras can take you anywhere, from one extreme to the other.

The town of my father
Crestline at sunrise is one of the most peaceful places I have experienced. Being in the mountains at that time of day is surreal. After my first trip from Los Angeles I realized this would be the time of day I needed to shoot. Once a week, for four months, I would wake up two hours before sunrise and commute from Los Angeles to Crestline. I would shoot one to two rolls every trip and then fall in love with the town as I scouted for future locations to photograph. Making the drive there every Friday became therapeutic. Lugging my big camera around while the sun met me in the brisk morning air made me truly feel at peace. I wasn’t just learning about my father, I was also learning about myself.

10 World Press Photo awards, 10 backstories
Joanne Rathe Strohmeyer documented the first black community permitted to take public buses with whites during Apartheid South Africa. Jane Evelyn Atwood was the first photojournalist to intimately document the AIDS crisis in Europe. It was the first time an AIDS sufferer permitted his face to be shown in Europe. Wendy Sue Lamm followed her instincts, and with bravery, worked even as her colleague was shot. Jodi Cobb made eloquent images of the secretive society of the Geisha. Susan Watts’ first opioid story, photographed twenty years ago resonates to this day. These stories dominated the news and social currents of the time.

100 year old suffrage posters

“Our weapon is public opinion” – Posters of the women’s suffrage movement at the University Library
“These posters are fantastic examples of the suffrage publicity machine of the early twentieth century,” says Chris Burgess, exhibitions officer at the Library. “They were created to be plastered on walls, torn down by weather or political opponents, so it is highly unusual for this material to be safely stored for over a hundred years.”

Really noticing the world around us

A pair of photographers whose work makes me question whether I live in the same world as them, as nothing looks like that round here. But maybe that’s the thing – it does, but I’m just not noticing.

Metropolis: Bauhaus-inspired urban photography
In his series Metropolis, photographer Alan Schaller interprets the disconnection between people in the digital age. The series examines the way in which we are dwarfed by the world around us, and how that feels. Schaller was born in London, where Metropolis also began. The majority of the photographs were taken on the streets candidly, because Schaller wanted them to convey a true sense of urban life in its many facets.

Photographer Jonathan Higbee discovers a world of coincidence on the streets of New York
For over a decade, photographer Jonathan Higbee has walked the streets of New York with a camera in-hand, spotting extraordinary juxtapositions and unusual moments when the world aligns for a split second in front of his lens. At times he manages to completely erase the boundaries between manufactured imagery found in billboards or signage that pollute the city streets and captures anonymous passersby who seem to live in an alternate reality.

noticing-2

I’ve heard of ‘gutter’ politics…

Trump asked to borrow a Van Gogh, and the Guggenheim offered him a gold toilet
“We are pleased that they are interested in demonstrating their support for the arts… I am sorry, however, to inform you that we are unable to participate in this loan,” it begins. “Fortuitously, a marvellous work by the celebrated contemporary Italian artist, Maurizio Cattelan, is coming off view today after a year’s installation at the Guggenheim, and he would like to offer it to the White House for a long-term loan…. The work beautifully channels the history of 20th-century avant-garde art by referencing Marcel Duchamp’s famous urinal of 1917.”

Indeed. And speaking of Duchamp’s Fountain, here’s a great story from Brian Eno.

When Brian Eno and other artists peed in Marcel Duchamp’s famous urinal
I thought, how ridiculous that this particular … pisspot gets carried around the world at—it costs about thirty or forty thousand dollars to insure it every time it travels. I thought, How absolutely stupid, the whole message of this work is, “You can take any object and put it in a gallery.” It doesn’t have to be that one, that’s losing the point completely. And this seemed to me an example of the art world once again covering itself by drawing a fence around that thing, saying, “This isn’t just any ordinary piss pot, this is THE one, the special one, the one that is worth all this money.” So I thought, somebody should piss in that thing, to sort of bring it back to where it belonged. So I decided it had to be me.

And for more Trump-inspired art, check out Edel Rodriguez’s magazine cover artworks for Der Spiegel and Time.

Landscape photography, but with people

Simon Robert’s photographs create a portrait of Britain over the last ten years
“All my photographs deal with specifics – it’s details and facts that matter,” says Simon on what he looks for in an image. “Landscape photography is all about generalisation, sweeping views and atmosphere. Mine are not – the photographs have to read intently, spatially, figuratively. They are layered documents.” A strong emphasis on scale can be found in Simon’s documentary style images, where environments are portrayed to look more like grand film sets as vignettes seemingly play out within them.

Martin Parr
At first glance, his photographs seem exaggerated or even grotesque. The motifs he chooses are strange, the colours are garish and the perspectives are unusual. Parr’s term for the overwhelming power of published images is “propaganda”. He counters this propaganda with his own chosen weapons: criticism, seduction and humour. As a result, his photographs are original and entertaining, accessible and understandable. But at the same time they show us in a penetrating way how we live, how we present ourselves to others, and what we value.

Enigmatic portraits of a strange man

In sight, yet elusive – a year of photographing Donald Trump
I know that I can never explain the day’s news the way our writers do, but what I can do is help the reader feel what it is like to be there and to make pictures that have meaning beyond the objects in the frame. My role is not to make the candidate look good or make the crowds look impressive. My job is to tell the story.

Brutalist beaches

The Modernist sandcastles of Coney Island
With over 170,000 views on Flickr, Calvin Seibert’s creations are admired by the world. But what drives one man to spend 10 hours painstakingly building a brutalist sandcastle, only for it to be swept away by the sea or destroyed by drunks? We spoke to him about how a hobby that began at art school turned into a lifelong passion.

[…]

I like making things and tend to work with whatever is at hand. Building sandcastles at a beach to me is a very natural thing to be doing. As a child, I saw photographs of the French ski resort of Flaine. I was very taken by the brutalist buildings, designed by Marcel Breuer. Since then I have always gone out of my way to see brutalist architecture and when I build sandcastles I have them in mind

A fascinating look into what it’s like reading with dyslexia

This is very clever, a great use of Javascript.

Dsxyliea
A friend who has dyslexia described to me how she experiences reading. She can read, but it takes a lot of concentration, and the letters seems to “jump around”. I remembered reading about typoglycemia. Wouldn’t it be possible to do it interactively on a website with Javascript? Sure it would.

Much obliged to Christopher Hallas, over on Linked In, who pointed me in the direction of this pdf from the British Dyslexia Association, full of great advice for clear, accessible documents production.

Dyslexia Style Guide (pdf)
The aim is to ensure that written material takes into account the visual stress experienced by some dyslexic people, and to facilitate ease of reading. Adopting best practice for dyslexic readers has the advantage of making documents easier on the eye for everyone.

Couldn’t agree more. And here’s another take on recreating the exasperation​​ ​of reading with dyslexia.​​

This font shows you what it feels like to be dyslexic
“What this typeface does is break down the reading time of a non-dyslexic down to the speed of a dyslexic. I wanted to make non-dyslexic people understand what it is like to read with the condition and to recreate the frustration and embarrassment of reading everyday text and then in turn to create a better understanding of the condition”.​​

Designing placebos?

Design, white lies & ethics
“You’ve probably run into “Close Door” buttons that don’t really close the elevator, or sneaky progress bars that fill at an arbitrary rate—these false affordances and placebo buttons are everywhere, and might make life seem a bit easier. But is this ethical design? And can we build a framework for working with false affordances and designing with integrity?”​

And check out the interesting example in the comments about mobile phones and fake antennas.

The world’s finest viola?

Sotheby’s to auction $45 million Stradivarius viola
“This viola represents the pinnacle of human achievement in instrument-making, and it is in incredibly good condition. Almost as though you ordered a viola from Stradivarius and 300 years later he handed it you.”

But then…

Rare ‘Macdonald’ Stradivarius viola fails to attract a buyer
The rare 1719 ‘Macdonald’ Stradivarius viola failed to attract a buyer when its sealed-bid sale came to an end yesterday, despite ‘plenty of interest,’ according to Tim Ingles of auctioneers Ingles & Hayday. The result comes just days after news that the ‘Kreutzer’ Stradivarius violin, valued at between $7.5m and $10m by Christie’s, failed to sell.

Emoji-nation

Emoji-nation by Nastya Nudnik
It became quite common to express our feelings with little Emoji’s, telling if we’re happy, sad, bored or hungry. Playing with this truth, Ukrainian artist Nastya Nudnik created the series ‘Emoji-nation’, putting computer elements which represent the modern life and historical fine arts in correlation.

stroll a for Out

Video of a man walking backwards through Tokyo played in reverse
When first thing that strikes you when watching this video of a man walking through Tokyo is that every other person in the entire clip is walking backward. The opposite of which is actually true: the man, Ludovic Zuili, is the one walking backward but the video is being played in reverse.

What you’re watching is just a short preview of a 9-hour movie that was aired in its entirety in France called Tokyo Reverse, part of a bizarre TV programming trend called Slow TV that has been regarded as a “small revolution.”

How strange, why has no one else thought of this?

To the stationery cupboard!

A girl named Elastika: an animated adventure in office supplies
Animated by Guillaume Blanchet, this new stop-motion short called A Girl Named Elastica tells the brief story of a girl who leaves her home to adventures around the world. Probably the most notable aspect is the ingenious use of thumbtacks and rubber bands to create the majority of the animation which takes place entirely on a small bulletin board.

I love the holey tracks the pins leave behind on the paper, footprints in the sand, form following function and so on. Interesting play on scale too.