AI and art: How art and museums are reinventing themselves with data

What is the relationship between automatic music composition and the organization of museums of tomorrow? Artificial intelligence (AI) pervades the field of art and questions our creativity.

 

In the last few years, AI art has proliferated. Some AI algorithms can recreate an image in a painter’s style, some can improvise a track alongside a human musician on stage and some can even write a story presenting the reader as hero. Are they as creative or imaginative as humans? Unlike humans, they have a limited degree of functional autonomy and are capable of performing only one function. For example, an AI that’s dedicated to writing will not paint a picture. Mark Riedl, research professor at the Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing and director of the Entertainment Intelligence Lab throws some light on the issue of AI creativity. When asked by Le Monde, he says: “We are creative when we play Pictionary, when we use a trombone to repair a pair of glasses or when we find another route to go home if a road is closed. Computers already have this kind of creativity.” Jean-Gabriel Ganascia, a researcher at the computer lab at Paris VI, further explains: “Every imagination is seen as the recombination of the elements from pre-existing memory”. This is the underlying principle of how AI creates artistic content.

  • Sheherazade IF (for Interactive Fiction) relies on an existing body of text to create its own narrative schemas. It interacts with the reader who gives it the directions to follow and model the books making you the hero.
  • EMI and Emily Howell are two AI ‘sisters’: EMI composes music that’s inspired from the work of human composers and also proposes variations. Emily Howell uses EMI’s compositions to produce its own musical compositions.
  • Shimon analyzed the improvisational techniques used by pianist Thelonious Monk and it can accompany a live musician with consistent melodies.

 

AI programs create artistic trend?
Machine learning researchers and artists are also found in the field of imaging. There are painting-inspired IT innovations: Pikazo and Deep Art continue the tradition of pastiche by allowing reproducing any image ‘in the style of’ other. There’s no painter or trend that’s not covered by these apps. Deep Dream, a Google product that aims to better classify images on the basis of their analysis, has even launched a creative stream. This AI can recognize and highlight the human and animal forms in an image. On their blog, their team of engineers has explained the principle of this program. The instruction given is “whatever you see, we want more! If a cloud looks a bit like bird, the [program] will make it look even more like bird.” The psychedelic renderings fascinate web users who love experimenting with this online simulator.

 

Re-visiting the collections with computer vision
Awarded by Tate Modern, the Italian project Recognition bridges the gap between image recognition and collection management. It screens 1000 photographs a day, supplied by Reuters, and tries to match them with 30,000 artworks in the London museum based on similarities in composition, faces or objects. The ‘matches’ are exhibited in an online gallery, offering an unprecedented perspective on our past and modern representations.

 

Contrary to the popular fear, AI is not intended to replace artists. Always open to innovation, artists can use AI programs as creative assistants who can accompany them beyond their cognitive abilities.

Louis Petros, Lead Data Evangelist, nam.R