MediaFutures technical lead hosted a workshop at the BDVA (Big Data Value Association) Data Week 2021, on ‘New data requirements: AI-Arts collaborations’. For 1.5 hours, MediaFutures staff, artists and guests discussed the intersection of arts and AI, and the opportunities and challenges that working in this intersection entails. The panel was moderated by Gefion Thuermer (King’s College London). Panellists included MediaFutures Technical Lead Professor Elena Simperl (KCL), Hugues Vinet (IRCAM), Hannah Redler Hawes (ODI, Data as Culture), Matthew Pelowski (University of Vienna), and Ania Catherine and Dejha Ti from the MediaFutures project SoftEvidence. Ania and Dejha presented – amongst other works – their thought-provoking and award-winning installation ‘On View‘, which uses AI and experiential design to make the audience part of the artwork.   

Following an introduction to MediaFutures and its goals, the panelists discussed questions ranging from the unique value of, but also the challenges for and to using AI in art; the potential for art to address misinformation, and the considerations around inclusion and ethics that such works entail.

Artists have always responded to new technologies in their own ways, and using the materials that are available to them; then, using data and AI for art can be seen just a new way to use this existing material. While technology can make art more interesting, using tech alone does not make it art. Art allows us to reach people emotionally, and to shift their perspective on issues, not least on ‘what is true’ – for example by challenging the common perception that ‘what the computer said is true’ (it is not!).

What is special about AI in art is that this emotional connection transcends technological understanding, and thus makes tech issues more relatable, even without a deep understanding of the underlying technology. Engagement becomes possible at every level and with every skillset (technical, emotional, digital …) – but there is also more than one way to understand an artwork: It can simultaneously be perceived individually (everyone sees it differently) and universal (everyone sees something).

This, and more, was part of the discussion, which you can watch on YouTube: