Unsupervised: artificial intelligence making art

Unsupervised: artificial intelligence making art
Fecha de publicación: 
19 December 2022
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Until March next year, those visiting the New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) will experience the possibility to enjoy an unprecedented wonder, Unsupervised, which is the first art work made by artificial intelligence being exhibited there.

Devised by Turkish artist and programmer Refik Anadol, who is based in Los Angeles, the exhibition is about an impressive 7,32-x-7,32-meters digital display, where a neural network of image synthesis —probably the one with highest resolution ever—, takes control, synthetizing and giving back a never-seen-before remake of 200 years of history of art, the over 180,000 art works treasured by the museum, among the most renowned worldwide.

Put it simply: the art preserved in the museum feeds the artificial intelligence that constantly generates new art works, in an impressive creative loop, which may well begin to transform the ways in which art is being understood so far.

It is "a unique and unprecedented meditation on technology, creativity and modern art," focused on "reimagining the path of modern art, paying tribute to its history and dreaming of its future," explains MoMA.

Although the experience of living it in real time can never match to that of enjoying it in photos, it is awesome, anyway. It is like an explosion of doubts and surprises combined with a burst of colors and images that multiply in a constant "unsupervised" change, depending on the movement of the audience and the weather conditions; hence the art work gives the impression of being really alive.

The artist and programmer spent nearly 18 months to design this creation, where the data is used as a painter would use his oil paintings.

Anadol and his team’s software —in collaboration with engineers— is fed by 380,000 images with the highest possible resolution, obtained from over 180,000 art works treasured at MoMA: Picasso, Warhol, Monet, Kandinsky…are all merged, recognized, reinterpret in the heart of a powerful computer Nvidia DGX Station A100, which works in a small room behind the display.

Considering that neural networks are the new paintbrushes and digital data the new pigments, one might ask, shock and wonder aside, is this magical installment really art?

If the answer follows to the most conventional definitions, those stating that art is feeling, emotion, that art is born from emotions and transmits each, evidently artificial intelligence is anything but that.

But if more contemporary ideas are taken into consideration, such as those of renowned Doctor in Philosophy, professor and art critic Arthur Coleman Danto (Michigan, 1924-2013), then the approach could be different, considering that, according to this scholar, the work of art is not due to any intrinsic quality, but because it fits within the "artistic world." According to his Institutional Theory of Art, if the art world accepts something as art, then it is art, simplifying Danto's statements to the extreme.

And so is Unsupervised. Although it is still too early to label something so novel that it could mean a watershed in art history or perhaps end up being forgotten by another artificial intelligence that shadows it.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

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