Artificial Intelligence is the future of art, says Poonam Goel, as she visits India’s first AI art show

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in art? The artist as a cyborg? This might sound bizarre, but at Nature Morte gallery’s latest exhibition titled ‘Gradient Descent’ in New Delhi, the notion didn’t seem far-fetched at all. The beautifully mounted exhibition was the result of a seamless collaboration between man and machine, and is pushing the boundaries of art as we know it. Curated by 64/1, a Bengaluru-based art collective, this first-of-its-kind AI art show in the country showcased the works of seven artists from the US, Japan, Germany, Turkey, India, the UK and New Zealand. With a strong background of working in this uber-contemporary genre, these artists have collaborated with AI to produce art that is both aesthetic and thought-provoking. No wonder then, that Aparajita Jain, co-director of Nature Morte, is already enthused about another show on similar lines.

“This is the first such exhibition in the world by a commercial gallery,” she says, “and it is just the beginning. AI is the future of art. We cannot deny the fact that AI is taking over almost all aspects of our life, so how can art remain aloof?” The process of creating AI art is as intriguing as the statement Jain makes.

The artist curates a set of data that includes familiar images and material – also known as the ‘training set’ – but the final artwork is created by an AI algorithm. So, does the artist lose control over the art once AI takes over? “No,” emphasises Jain, “from curating a training set and adjusting to how quickly AI responds to it, to finally imposing visual constraints on AI, the artist is always conscious of the quality.”

Take, for example, New Zealander Tom White’s prints titled Perception Engines. The artist has collected thousands of images of everyday objects such as electric fans and cellos, and created simple sketches. The AI then zoomed in on photographs from a global image database that matched these objects, but in the process transformed them into abstract paintings. 

Another interesting work in the show was by UK-based artist Anna Ridler. In her work, the AI algorithm learns to transform hand-drawn sketches of stills from the first four minutes of a 1928 film by James Sibley Watson titled The Fall of The House of Usher (based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story of the same name). The final 14-minute video is an actual film, auto-generated by AI based on just these drawings.

Then, there was Deep Meditations by UK-based Memo Akten, whose four-channel video work looks like fresco paintings. One AI algorithm is exposed to images of beaches, flowers and paintings along with around 20,000 artworks from the Google Art Archive. Another AI algorithm is exposed to soundtracks of religious chants and prayers. Together, the two have created a unique audio-visual experience.

Bengaluru-based new media artist Harshit Agarwal teaches his AI what a human surgery looks like by showing it several videos of surgical dissections and then allowing the AI to create its own images. German artist Mario Klingemann creates a video of artificially generated human faces (titled 79530 Self Portraits) while Nao Takui’s video work titled Imaginary Landscape allows an AI algorithm to stitch together three images from Google Street View to create its own unique landscape.

Ideas of memory, perception, identity and much more have been explored though these artworks, but in a way that goes beyond
the ordinary.

The author is an art enthusiast  and the views expressed in this  article are her own

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