Webbed; Art and AI

By Anweshak Tejendra

Are you bombarded by social media advertisements? Ever left wondering how Gmail attempts to predict your replies? It all comes down to Artifical Intelligence (AI). You would be surprised to know how prevalent AI actually is in the contemporary world. It’s one of the many fascinating products of constantly emerging technology, but how does it work exactly?

Think of it as ‘teaching’ a computer what to do and eliminating the need for constant inputs. By enabling a machine to learn from the experience of recognising patterns, it can be trained to perform human-like tasks. These include understanding speech, making predictions and recognising images.

But does it end there? Or can technology be used as a means to enhance creativity? In recent times, pieces of art have emerged which were created through concepts of AI. By training machines in the aforementioned ways, it has become possible to replicate traditional artwork.

In 2018, an AI artwork, known as Portrait of Edmond Belamy, was sold for $432,500. That’s almost 45 times higher than the estimated value of the artwork!

An exhibition at London’s Somerset House titled Artist+AI: Figures and Forms in the Age of Intelligent Machines on June 18 will celebrate this fusion of art and technology by featuring ground-breaking pieces of AI art.

It will also exhibit the works of Scott Eaton, an artist who has worked with the likes of Disney and Pixar. He has also collaborated with Mark Wallinger to create a life-size marble sculpture known as The White Horse.

One of Eaton’s works at the exhibition reimagines Peter Paul Rubens’ 1620 masterpiece The Fall of the Damned, which features a heap of bodies hurled into the abyss by Archangel Michael and his accompanying angels.


The Fall of the damned by Peter Paul Rubens


To create the artwork, Eaton first followed the basic composition of the painting, before allowing his ‘trained’ AI tools to take over. The AI translates his drawings and animation into photographic, figurative representations as well as abstract sculptures.

image001Eaton’s representation of The Fall of The Damned created through AI


Another work of his, Contemplating Mass Unemployment, comments on the effects of technology on the future. It has been predicted that by 2030, the world will lose up to 80 million jobs as manual labour will be replaced by automation. This artwork portrays Eaton’s vision of unemployed people in the future.

Regarding the amalgamation of art and AI, Eaton said: “The AI has no choice but to do what I ask, no matter how difficult or unreasonable my request. The result is often a wondrous, unexpected, interplay of visual ideas, both mine and the machine’s.”


Artist+AI: Figures and Forms in the Age of Intelligent Machines will be held on June 18 at Somerset House.

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