The Artificial Intelligentsia

Deep in the programmer-heavy corridors of Twitter is an emerging art scene. You could deem it digital, but some days it feels more than that. Ever since Google released its “deep dream” code in 2015, and the world looked through the eyes of artificially intelligent neural networks, I’ve tried to keep tabs on this space.

There’s something so inherently strange and foreign about this “art”. Like a strange smell that you keep smelling, it’s completely compelling and creepy at the same time. As AI makes its rounds as the ever-present buzzword in business and industry, it’s satisfying and didactic to be able to see visual expressions of its power.

As of late, these artists (who are arguably computer scientists at heart) have begun to show their work and caught the attention of a few in the media. The Financial Times recently took a look at Mario Klingemann, a Munich-based creative. Klingemann is currently an artist in residence at Google, whose artwork powered by AI via Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN), was featured in a new art show in New Delhi titled Gradient Descent.

Like wildfires in the West, the debate of how much of the workforce will be replaced by AI rages on. When asked whether or not the machines or the humans deserve the credit for the work, Klingemann replies “There is no question, would you consider the piano the artist?” He does however, believe in a day when the machines can produce work all on their own. Connected to clouds of data in perpetual growth, these networks have increasing access to information, which we provide, that can be processed and outputted in something that may be considered art.

Klingemann takes a unique approach that helps draw the connection to classical art by training data sets of archives of paintings. In the video above, he looks into the camera of his computer and as he moves around, it replaces each live frame with one from his data set that most resembles his face, creating a real-time generative classical painting based on thousands of images painstakingly crafted by human hand and touch. The result is confounding and at times concerning. What exactly are we looking at and what are we doing with all these computers and code? The answer is for certain unclear, but after following this relatively small group of artistic technicians pioneering in this space – I’m convinced that what drives them to explore this nexus of science, technology and art will at minimum, help steer the ship on this journey of unknowns.

Follow Klingemann’s AI art revolution @quasimondo.

This article was originally featured at Technology Insider Group.