Oct 23, 2017

Putting back the ART in AI

Let’s talk about art and artificial intelligence, about great ideas and their implementation, about setbacks, new foundations and the essence of an experience - or simply: our project for the House of Beautiful Business in early November in Lisbon.

Stefanie Wibbeke

In contrast to the workshop topic for the House of Beautiful Business Conference, our art project was and is a much heavier birth. It started with the noble idea that we construct the “Gate of the Future” with 3D scanned faces of participants, inspired by Rodin’s Gate of Hell. At the verge of the era of artificial intelligence, we wanted to shed a light on the human being with an artistic point of view. So, we were not so much concerned with art as such, but with the emphasis on humanity in the age of machines.

Reads well? Sounds simple? Believe us, it's not.

As with any great idea, the devil is in the details: While our colleague Minjoo Cho, a Creative Interaction Technologist at INDEED, struggled with the flaws of 3D scanning and processing, we tried to find 3D printers capable of operating continuously for the duration of the pop-up-community. To make matters worse (in the truest sense of a hundred-kilo printer), we had to think about moving the installations to another venue. In order to cut a long story full of setbacks short: just a few days ago, we sat in front of our 3D printed “thinker” generated from our program (as shown above), which represents the essence of Rodin’s Gate of Hell and was planned to shine above our installation, and couldn’t help the feeling that our big idea should be a bit better polished before being shown at the conference.

So, we went through one iteration process as we found some limitations from the initial prototype. This time, we set our focus on the “experience”. We would like the participants to experience the ambivalent feeling in front of the altered (or beautifully distorted) image of themselves with artificial intelligence. Yet, the result should stay beautiful enough to be called as art.

"My work explores the boundaries between the three realms "Design x Technology x Humanity" and shows the artistic application of generative coding," Minjoo summed up the groundwork for the project in a meeting, and all of us stuck with it.

After ridding ourselves of the imitation of Rodin and the associated difficulties, we could expedite ourselves to the goal with a clearer concept; to represent the Greek word τέχνη (Techne), where the term “Art” originated from.

 It is not a matter of redefining art or making other artists superfluous, but about how people can harness AI to explore more aesthetic possibilities. Like the New York Times stated in August, "A.I. isn’t just creating new kinds of art; it’s creating new kinds of artists." In the House of Beautiful Business, we would like to go into the discourse, to show potentials of AI and to stimulate the debate about a technology, which will change our society in the coming decades.

Whether beautiful and good or repulsive and evil; we will discuss these questions with the participants of the conference, as we scan them, convert their 3D mesh data into computable forms, and see their delight at the end result. This is by all means the art in artificial intelligence.       

Anyone who is interested in the technical side of the project and, of course, in the output, can visit our Tumblr page. The gallery is constantly being expanded over time. Take a look!

Stefanie Wibbeke

Marketing & Communication

Stefanie is Head of Marketing at INDEED. She is responsible for spreading the word about us through digital and social marketing, partnerships, events, and more. As humanities scholar, she questions our work from a different angle and makes us explain projects with the human experience in mind. Residing in Hamburg by choice, she couldn’t live without her daily dose of crocheting.


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