Technology and Art: 5 AI artists that you probably have not heard of

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Take a look at the paintings below. Which painting do you think is created by a human, and which one by a computer?

La Comtesse de Belamy by OBVIOUS
Faceless portrait of a Merchant by Ahmed Elgammal and AICAN

Would you be surprised if to learn that both these paintings were created by computers? We used to believe that computers are incapable of creativity, but with the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the possibilities are endless. Between futuristic self-driving cars and virtual assistants, you might be surprised that technology can be used for something else other than a mere tool for humans to navigate the arduous chores in our lives – art.

So far, it has always been science or the arts, but never science AND the arts. They are always seen as being on opposite ends of the spectrum because they are so different in nature, and therefore never associated with one another. What if I told you that they are better together, and that A.I. allows us to transcend boundaries for technology to create art in art forms like music, literature and dance? Here are some A.I. artists that have redefined what art in the 21st century looks like.

Using neural networks, code and algorithms, Mario Klingemann teaches us that we to unlearn some conceptions we may have of computers and machines before. Artificial intelligence is vastly different from the machinery workers use in factories and the electronics we have at home:, Machine learning allows artificial intelligence to constantly absorb and manipulate new information, making the possibilities of creation endless. Using Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), computers can use a sample set to deduce patterns and make new pieces through that process.

Even after knowing the complicated procedures of making AI art, the world was still shocked when Memories of Passerby I by Mario Klingemann was sold for an estimated $50,000 at an auction. Do you think that it is impressive enough to be worth $50,000?

Memories of Passersby I by Mario Klingemann

For those more familiar with classical music, they will know that Franz Schubert has an unfinished symphony, Symphony No. 8, which he abandoned after writing the first two movements (many theorise that the composer was so absent-minded that he probably did not bother to put the paperwork together or forgot about it entirely, but that is gossip for another discussion). A pattern-recognition system by Huawei suggested a series of new melodies, which was processed by Cantor to flesh out the AI’s contribution into a full movement. Whether or not the final product is accurate is widely debated in the classical music community, but it is perhaps the closest thing we can have to listening to the completed 8th symphony.

AI has also made its way into the world of literature. Oscar Sharp and collaborator Ross Goodwin fed dozens of scripts to a long short-term memory (LSTM) recurrent neural network. Benjamin learned to imitate the structure of a screenplay, as well as stage directions. Sunspring, a screenplay written by Benjamin, was presented at Sci-Fi London, a film festival, where it was selected as one of the 10 best short films. Interestingly, the characters were named H, H2 and C,  as the system could not pick up a pattern to name characters. Isn’t it strange that while Benjamin can create a whole play by itself, yet it finds difficulty doing something as simple as coming up with a name? In this case, are machines that creative after all?

Intended to be a wordplay on the poet Shakespeare, the Deep-speare A.I. mastered rhythm, rhyme and natural language to write sonnets like William Shakespeare. This AI uses deep learning, which is an extremely flexible system to train computers on various tasks, and great at learning patterns. The team did not provide Deep-speare with any resources that dictated the rules of the English language, it learned the three sets of rules on sonnet writing independently. Here is a sonnet written by Deep-speare:

A sonnet by Deep-speare, retrieved from IEEE Spectrum

If you are interested, you can check out its cousin Deep-Bach, which composes music in Bach’s style.

A hundred years ago, no one would have thought that dance choreographers in the future could be machines. However, it just became a reality as McGregor collaborated with Google Arts & Culture to develop an AI system that creates original dance choreographies. The AI system captured the different ways the dancers moved and provided suggestions for the next choreographic sequences. Perhaps one day, we can witness a full dance recital choreographed by a robot, and maybe, just maybe, it will outshine the humans.

Are pattern-recognition systems really defining art, or is it making it easier for us to create art? Can making something from analysing old patterns really be counted as creativity? That will be up to your own definition of art, and it will continue to be a debatable topic further down the road. No one knows for sure what the future of A.I. in art holds.


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Written by Emily Du
Illustrated by Lee Ai Cing


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