Wednesday 12th October 2016The AI Curator
Much has been made of the recent advancements in the nature of artificial intelligence and machine learning, but aside from a few notable exceptions that tread the line between a fun toy and actual art (here's looking at you, Deep Dream), it hasn't really touched the art world.
Many artists are fascinated by technology and explore related themes in their work, whether it's incorporating the machines themselves or taking advantage of what the machines allow them to do. This is perfectly understandable, but as the intelligences grow smarter, the scope of their role in the art world is likely to change dramatically.
Perhaps the first example of this shift comes courtesy of a collaboration between Microsoft and the Tate Britain museum in London. An exhibit in artificial intelligence dubbed 'Reaction' recently captured the annual IK prize for its exploration of the applications of machine learning to the art world. Produced by a trio of developers working at Fabrica, Angelo Semeraro, Coralie Gourguechon and Monica Lanaro, and in collaboration with Jolibrain, a group of France-based AI specialists, Reaction isn't actually an exhibit, it's 'an autonomously operating software programme'.
The majority of the exhibit is the result of its abilities.
Tony Guillan, producer of the IK prize -- since when did art prizes have producers? What a world -- in an interview with Digital Trends gave an overview of how the system works. “From the moment it launched, it’s continually scanning both databases and comparing images, trying to find works which are comparable — whether that be visually or thematically — and then publishing them online in a virtual gallery. That gallery will keep growing over the course of the exhibition and, by virtue of including up-to-the-minute news images, will become a sort of time capsule of this period.”
“Reaction has learned to do something we can’t do, which is to scan up-to-the-minute photography and the entire Tate collection in nanoseconds. At the same time, when we look at pictures, there are numerous frames of reference we’ll use to judge them based on our lived experiences. The main job of a human curator is to put artworks together in a way that creates new meanings through comparisons or contrasts. A machine doesn’t do that. The meaning is produced by the human audiences who fill in the extra connections for themselves.”
Check out the online galleries for yourself at http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/recognition
Posted on October 12th 2016 on 07:43pm
Wednesday 19th August 2015Moscow Art Exhibit Attacked
While it was never exactly a haven for the culturally adventurous, Russia seems to be going through a bad time for artists lately. After the feminist activist group/punk band Pussy Riot staged a protest in the main cathedral in Moscow in 2012, the government enacted some tough new legislation aimed at curbing such protests in the future. The legislation was ostensibly around protecting the faithful, and like much of such legislation, it didn't take too long before it was being twisted around in the opposite way.
There is a large exhibit space next to Moscow's Red Square known as the Manezh, which is currently playing host to an impressive collection of pieces from some of Russia's most prominent and popular artists, in an exhibit entitled Sculptures We Don't See. Last week, the exhibit had some extremely unhappy visitors from the God's Will right-wing ultra-conservative religious group. So unhappy, in fact, that they took the opportunity to damage many of the artworks, tearing them off their plinths, throwing them on the ground, stomping on them and smashing some of them to pieces.
Several of the pieces were admittedly provocative, some featuring the severed head of John the Baptist, and a naked Jesus, among many others. Regardless, none of this justifies the violence and destructive nature of the attack. During video of the attack, the leader can be heard to shout, “Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary are being mocked. This is punishable under the criminal code.” Surely, however, if that were the case, they would have been dealt with by the proper authorities instead of being vandalized. Surely destruction of property is a crime as well, yet it seems that no charges have been laid against those responsible to date.
Naturally, the religious authorities in Russia were quick to denounce the actions of the God's Will group: “What so-called Orthodox activists do, as a rule, has nothing to do with religion,” Vladimir Legoida said, speaking on behalf of the Moscow Patriarchate. It's unclear where any kind of security staff were during the incident, but Enteo, the leader of God's Will, was detained only briefly by police after the destructive attack, and then released the same evening.
Hopefully, this vague and half-formed law will be stricken from the books, and self-proclaimed activists who deface national treasures will be treated with just as harshly as those who the law was originally supposed to protect.
Posted on August 19th 2015 on 03:09pm
Sunday 02nd February 2014When Celebrity Art Gets Weird: #IAMSORRY
Film is undeniably one of the great art forms of the modern world. Whether you're looking at an intricate Scorsese drama or a visual feast like Samsara, films have the power to move us, to change the way we look at the world - and that's one of the best quick working definitions for art. However film is unlike most other art in that it often depends on actors to create its emotional power. The human brain seems hardwired for appreciation of celebrity, and when this starts to merge with a desire to create art, things can sometimes get pretty weird.
Case in point: actor Shia LeBeouf, most recently star of the Transformers film series among others, has had some troubles of late. Being accused (apparently accurately) of plagiarising the work of artist Daniel Clowes in a short film HowardCantor.com which debuted, astonishingly enough, at the May 2012 Cannes Film Festival, LaBeouf has repeatedly tried to apologize to the artist whose work he took nearly verbatim. After claiming simply to have been 'lost in the creative process', he decided to take a decidedly different tack to the apology.
Well, that's not quite true - first he decided to try skywriting an apology, despite the fact that Clowes wasn't anywhere near the locations it would be visible. He then moved on to a bizarre installation/performance art piece, entitled #IAMSORRY (the use of hashtags appears to be a reference to the fact that many of the revelations about this story appeared on Twitter). The exhibit is a arguably an art stunt more than an actual installation piece, although these lines are often hard to distinguish and frequently depend on the mood of the reviewer. Despite a collaboration with artists Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö, critical reception of the work - what little there was of it - seems to have been generally negative.
The exhibit consists of Shia LeBeouf sitting in an empty room with a paper bag over his head. But naturally, he's not there all the time, despite having posted hours of 11AM to 6PM Tuesday through Sunday. After lining up outside often for hours at a time (without any guarantee of being admitted at all), visitors/participants are checked over by security with a metal-detector and passed one at a time into an antechamber filled with icons related to LeBeouf's previous work. Note that's not 'one by one', but rather one at a time - only one visitor is ever in the room with him at once. The length of time spent in the room is dependent on the wills and interest of both parties, not any particular set of rules.
Does this make for a decent art installation? Does it make for art at all? It's hard to say. Does it make a good apology for plagiarism? Arguably it just makes things worse, as many have pointed out similarities between #IAMSORRY and a performance piece by artist Marina Abramovic that employed a nearly identical premise - just without the hashtags.
Posted on February 02nd 2014 on 06:03pm