In contrast to the workshop theme for the House of Beautiful Business conference, our art project was and is a much more difficult birth. The starting point was the lofty notion that we would recreate Rodin’s Gates of Hell with 3D scans of the conference themes alienated by AI. In the context of the discussion about the limits and possibilities of artificial intelligence development, we wanted to illuminate the creative artistic potentials, which is a unique characteristic of humans and should be preserved as such. So we were less concerned with art as such than with questioning humanity in the age of machines.
Reads well? Sounds simple? Believe us, it’s not the latter.
As with any great idea, the devil is in the details: While our colleague Minjoo Cho, Creative Interaction Technologist at INDEED, struggled through the pitfalls of 3D scanning and processing, we tried to find the right 3D printers that could work fast enough and in continuous operation to build a gate from hell from custom data first generated at the conference. Complicating matters (in the truest sense of a several-hundred-pound printer), we also would have happily moved to various pop-up community locations throughout the week. To cut a long story full of setbacks short: Just a few days ago, we were sitting in front of our three-dimensional, test-printed poet (see above), which towers over Rodin’s Gates of Hell and was actually supposed to watch over our installation even illuminated, without any printers available in the short time available and with the vague feeling that our big idea was not so great after all. Only one thought could comfort us a little: If we had talked ten years ago about creating a 3D model of a previously unknown conference topic live in order to use it precisely in an art installation… One would have laughed heartily. Today, the idea is at least close to becoming a theoretical reality, if not a practical one.
So we took another step back – as one likes to do in agile processes when the first prototype has failed – and thought back to the experience we wanted to give the conference participants: The experience of witnessing how technology formulates a digital image from a human profile and, by means of alienation, its own aesthetic. “My work explores the boundaries between the three poles “Design x Technology x Humanity” and shows what artistic potential lies dormant in Generative Code,” Minjoo summarized the basic enthusiasm for the project in a meeting. And infected us all with it.
After we had got rid of Rodin’s imitation and the associated printing difficulties, we could concentrate on the essentials and achieve our goal indirectly as well as according to plan. Quite in the sense of the Greek word τέχνη (techne) – but that might lead too far here.
After all, it’s not about reinventing art or making artists superfluous, but about ways and means by which people can open up new aesthetic options thanks to AI. After all, as the New York Times so aptly noted in August, “A.I. isn’t just creating new kinds of art; it’s creating new kinds of artists.” At the House of Beautiful Business, we would like to engage in discourse, highlight the potential of AI, and encourage discussion about a technology that may change our society permanently in the coming decades. Whether for the beautiful and good or the repulsive and bad; these are the questions we will discuss with conference attendees as we scan them, convert their likeness into 3D mesh data, triggered by sentiment analysis of their linguistic input, the alienation kicks in and at the end of the digital process is the artistic expression of what art is about artificial intelligence.
If you’re interested in the technical side of the project and of course the output, check out our Tumblr page regularly. There we provide more insights into the project and successively upload the individual posters. It’s worth a look!
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