Machine Learning (AI) + Artists

"As AI progresses, the great promise is that these machines alongside of us are able to think, imagine and see things in ways that we never have before. Which means that maybe we have some new, weird, seemingly implausible solution to climate change, maybe we have some radically different approach to dealing with incurable cancers. The real practical and wonderful promise is that machines help us be more creative and using that creativity we get to terrific solutions."

Amy Webb

For more on Kate Crawford and Trevor Paglen's research checkout their online essay on "the politics of images in machine learning training sets". For a critical response to Refik Anadol's MoMA piece "Unsurpervised" checkout this review from e-flux.

Making Art with AI

(high-level to low-level)

Making Art about AI

The coded gaze reflects the priorities, preferences and prejudices of those who have the power to shape technology

Joy Buolamwini

AI isn't just changing our field, it's reshaping so many different aspects of our lives. I also think it's important to engage with some of these technologies not necessarily so to AI-art (or AI-aided art) but work in any medium about this present moment.

an abstract composition designed to trick AI image classifiers by Tom White a detailed diagram of the human labor, data and planetary resources used in Amazon Echo's AI system

One example is Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler's 2018 piece Anatomy of an AI System (seen above), a detailed diagram, with an accompanying essay, of the human labor, data and planetary resources used in Amazon Echo's AI system. The work itself is a PDF (often printed in large format for exhibitions) with an accompanying essay, which is to say that it is not "digital art" (in terms of the medium), but the work is clearly informed by the artists's deep research into the subject matter of AI.

Another example might be Tom White’s The Treachery of ImageNet (seen above), a reference to Magritte’s “this is not a pipe” painting, these prints clearly don’t look like the thing they are not to us (humans) but if you point an AI image classifier at it, it will think it is the thing that it is not. White’s work is an interesting conceptual response to this tech, but there is also loads of political work in this area as well. For example, artists who've worked on "datasets" as art, these aren't necessarily meant to be functional ML training datasets (like the kind you find on but rather are works aimed at invoking discussions around the role curated data plays in this new world:


Black Health by Bomani Oseni McClendon

feminist dataset

Feminist Data Set by Carolin Sinders

missing dataset

The Library of Missing Datasets by Mimi Ọnụọha

Of course, a fundamental understanding of how this tech works and more importantly, whose in control of this tech and how is it being used in the world as well as what the implications are, are prerequisites for making meaningful work in this regard. You can find more of my notes on Bias in AI here.