Sentient Machines? – Group exhibition exploring artificial intelligence and art

11 August 2022 21 August 2022

Group exhibition
Projectroom, Färgfabriken

Participants: Kenric McDowell (US.), Hannoia (Sweden), Andrea Nordwall (Sweden), Ashwin Rajan (Finland) & Bengt Sjölén (Sweden), Paola Torres Núñez del Prado (Sweden), Holly Grimm (USA), Jaime Lobato (Mexico/Estonia).

The exhibition is part of Futureless Festival for Technology and the Arts, who takes place in Stockholm from the 10th to the 14th of August.

Sentient Machines? explores the implications of artificial intelligence on the art world. The show will feature works by artists who are using artificial intelligence in their creative process, as well as those who are exploring the implications of artificial intelligence in our society.

About the participating artists

K-Allado McDowell is an American writer, speaker and musician. Together with GPT-3*, they are the author of the books Pharmako-AI and Amor Cringe, and co-editors of The Atlas of Anomalous AI.  Allado-McDowell also founded the Artists + Machine Intelligence program at Google AI. They are presenters, trainers and consultants to think tanks and institutions that seek to align their work with deeper traditions of human understanding. McDowell will be presenting their book Pharmaco-AI.

Hannoia (Hannah Stansvik) is a Swedish painter who works with artificial intelligence, in a way that dissolves bodies and identities. By painting AI-generated images based on her own body, she takes apart and examines the construction of a self and the (female) body. During the summer of 2021, she trained a neural network, a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN), with the aim of generating images that she can use as originals for her new works. The neural network was trained using a dataset that consisted of a mix of her previous works and the photos of herself that she would normally use to paint from. This provided a new version of the body she usually depicts. “In my work with artificial intelligence, bodies and identities are dissolved. By painting AI generated images based on my own body I take apart and examine the construction of a self and the (female) body.”

Andrea Nordwall is a senior lecturer in media technology with a focus on visual expression and teaches media technology, design and aesthetics at Blekinge Institute of Technology. Nordwall works as an artist in media and participatory art and with the art group Interacting Arts, and is the author of the manifesto Participatory Culture. “Riksdagen (The Parliament) is an custom AI that generates photorealistic portraits of Swedish members of parliament. It is a custom machine learning model trained on about 1400 press photos of all Swedish members of parliament from 1992–2022.”

Ashwin Rajan is based in Finland and the author of Behavior Design Canvas, a design thinking framework he created to help teams apply behavioral science to their projects. He has founded a research lab and think tank called Fabric, which is used by a wide range of clients. He believes that pattern recognition, synthesis and storytelling are at the heart of what he brings to this blend of art and technology. Rajan will present an installation consisting of pairs of poems created by various human writers alongside poems generated by an artificial intelligence. It is up to the reader to figure out which are made by whom.

Bengt Sjölén is a Swedish programmer and artist living in Berlin and Stockholm. He has exhibited his work in many European countries and is part of the Critical Engineering collective. He will present his work FakeDeeper – Portrait of three critical engineers.
“FakeDeeper demonstrates this in a simple and direct way by allowing a visitor’s face to control the faces of three still images, causing them to move their mouths, pose and make facial expressions like the visitor does in front of the camera in real time. The live situation also allows for strange deformations and glitches and the ability to easily break the illusion in a way that a deliberate fake video production would naturally edit out, but then it also hints at artifacts that can reveal the fake while underscoring how much can be done easily with readily available code, machine learning models, and only still images and a webcam.”

Paola Torres Nuñez del Prado explores the boundaries of the senses, examining the concepts of interpretation, translation and misrepresentation to reflect on mediated sensations and experiences, while questioning the cultural hegemony of the history of technology and art. “In the 1960s, Peruvian poet Jorge Eduardo Eielson imagined a talking doll that consisted, among other things, of a magnetic tape that stored poetic texts that would allow it to “constantly recite the most beautiful poems that man has conceived.” With the support of Google’s Artists + Machine Intelligence program, I developed what I call AIELSON (a neologism that mixes “A.I.” with “Eielson”) Spoken-Word Poetry Generation System. It is relevant to point out that this album is not a deepfake (fictional audiovisual content created with machine learning tools), as it is not presented as if it were the work of the deceased poet, but as an artificial entity that emulates the poet’s voice as he recites.”

Jaime Lobato is a multimedia artist, composer, curator and researcher. He studied at the Faculty of Music of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He has had three solo exhibitions, at the Sound Experimentation Space of the University Museum of Contemporary Museum of Art, at Laboratorio Arte Alameda, and his retrospective exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Xalapa, Mexico. His work is included in public and private collections. As a multimedia artist, he has participated in several collective exhibitions in several cities in Asia, Europe and America.
“Memories of oblivion” is a synthesis of an overlay of natural neural networks and artificial neural networks. Several people were asked to model from memory the face of the person they loved most in their life and the process was recorded with a three-dimensional sensor. The resulting three-dimensional objects were fed into a GAN (stylegan2) trained to recognise and produce faces. These abstractions blurred the memory of this artificial intelligence, causing it to forget its learned weights, generating a latent space of affection and tactile memory.”

Holly Grimm was born in Denver, Colorado, of Diné (Navajo) origin. She is schooled at Stanford University and is based in New Mexico. She is a Software Engineer with 20+ years of development experience. She is also a formal painter, using both brushes and paints as well as Machine Learning to create works of art. Holly has written a neural net, ACAN, to augment AI-generated art with values of art composition such as texture, contrast, and color. The “Aikphrasis Project” that she will present in the exhibition unites vision and experience across a range of media and practice and ends up as a virtual art exhibition within a real-world A.I. exhibition.

*Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 (GPT-3) is an autoregressive language model that uses deep learning to produce human-like text. Source: wikipedia.

Curatorial statement by A.I. (GPT-3), artificial intelligence

In recent years, artificial intelligence has made significant strides in the field of art. AI-created artworks have been shown in galleries and museums around the world, and is increasingly being used by artists to create new and innovative works of art. These exhibitions often explore the concept of AI as artists, and the implications of AI-created art.

While AI-created art may be novel and interesting, it also raises a number of potential implications. For one, it is not clear who owns the copyright to these works of art.  If an AI system creates a painting or sculpture, is the copyright held by the AI system’s creator, the company that owns the AI system, or the gallery that displays the work?

Another question that this raises is whether or not AI should be given more recognition in the art world?

While some may scoff at the idea of a machine being able to appreciate art in the same way that humans do, it is undeniable that artificial intelligence has the ability to process and analyze vast amounts of data in a way that is beyond the capabilities of the human mind. This makes it possible for artificial intelligence to identify patterns and trends that humans may not be able to see.

If an AI can curate an exhibition, does this mean that the curator’s role is now redundant? And, as AI becomes more advanced, will AI-created art become more prevalent, and will human-created art become obsolete?

It could be argued that the artificial intelligence is acting as a filter or lens through which the artworks are being interpreted, and thus the show may be more ‘true’ to the artworks themselves than if curated by a human. In the hands of a skilled artificial intelligence curator, this ability could be used to create exhibitions and collections that are truly unique and reflective of the zeitgeist of our time. On the other hand, it could be that the artificial intelligence is biased in its interpretation of the artworks.

Through Sentient Machines, we can begin to imagine a future in which machines are not simply tools for humans, but partners in the creative process, as it is curated by a human being, but the curatorial text has been written by an artificial intelligence.

The exhibition is part of Futureless Festival (FF) is an Art + Technology event taking place 10–14 August in hybrid format (internationally through our partners) and in various locations in Stockholm, Sweden.