Where Art Meets Tech: You & AI

By Katherine Brubaker

The “You & AI: Through the Algorithmic Lens” outdoor exhibition is an unparalleled artistic experience: it encompasses 25 unique pieces that are scattered throughout Pedion tou Areos park in Athens. The exhibition takes place within the European ARTificial Intelligence Lab network and is co-funded by the “Creative Europe: of the European Union” program.

I explored the exhibit one evening around 8:00 pm in an effort to escape the unforgiving, July heat. Little did I know that this would be a prime time for perusing: the sun had set and the sky was golden, a concert was playing in the area adjacent to the park, children ran around squealing with delight as parents kept a watchful eye, and the park’s fountain was lit with bright, multi-colored lights. It was the essence of summertime, and an air of ease permeated the atmosphere as I walked from one abstract, thought-provoking piece to the next.

Each piece is accompanied by a written description that prompts viewers to consider different facets of the world; these ideas are viewed through the lens of AI and pertain to subjects such as climate change and feminism. As you stroll through the park, you can critically analyze these questions, or rather simply enjoy the visuals and audios around you.

While I recommend viewing all 25 pieces, here is a list of my personal favorites:

Deep Meditations (#12): Located in a grove of trees, I was slightly perplexed as I approached this work by Memo Akten. Two narrow screens reach to the sky, projecting images that are visually captivating, yet unintelligible. Constantly shifting forms and colors, I became entranced by the screens and sat watching them for 20 minutes. The description for this piece discusses what different emotions and abstract concepts in the world might visually look like, as well as whether or not we could convey to a machine what these human experiences are. To produce this piece, thousands of images were downloaded by a script from flickr, tagged with words such as “love,” “faith,” “ritual,” “God,” and “worship” in order to train the neural network. The images seen in the final work are not the downloaded ones, but are generated from scratch, using the fragments of memories in the neural network. The audio is generated by another artificial neural network, trained on hours of religious and spiritual chants, prayers, and rituals from around the world.

nimiia cétiï (#19): Slightly abrasive upon first impression, the chattering voices speaking in made up tongues and the visuals of natural settings, unknown languages, and abstract figures is extremely fascinating. This audiovisual work by Jenna Sutela is centered around the possibility of communication between nature and human beings. Sutela used machine learning to generate a new written and spoken language, which is based on a computer’s interpretation of the Martian dialect of the late 19th century, originally transmitted by the French medium Hélène Smith.

Exodus (#25): At night, this sound installation created by Manolis Manousakis and Aphrodite Panagiotakou feels otherworldly. The audio is of a loud, hushed discourse between “man and his creation / God about the body that is lost in time, the weight of everyday life, and the need to go out,” according to the work’s description. This auditory experience coupled with dramatic lighting and a cage of mirrors elicits an experience that transports you outside the park. The description explained that “memory, judgment, and consciousness are deconstructed into a fragmentary soundtrack to raise the existential question of the limits of human existence in the world of Artificial Intelligence.”

Counting Craters on The Moon (#15): Two screens are situated next to each other for this display by Kyriaki Goni. The videos show a discussion between the famous Johann Friedrich Julius Smith (1825-1884) and the DeepMoon neural network. Both Smith and the network were working to measure lunar craters, which due to the lack of atmosphere on the Moon have remained unchanged for billions of years, thus giving us valuable information about the past. One screen show’s Smith’s writing and the other projects DeepMoon’s. In their dialogue, they discuss accuracy, dedication, technique, nomenclature, loneliness, and patterns.

Here is a complete list of pieces:

  1. The Wandering Mind
  2. The Normalizing Machine
  3. Abra
  4. INSULAE [Of the Island]
  5. Voicing Erasure
  6. Epigraph
  8. Before the bullet hits the body
  9. The Data Feminism INfographic
  10. Learning to see
  11. Content Aware Studies
  12. Deep Meditations
  13. Zizi - Queering the Dataset
  14. #WhenWordsFail
  15. Counting Craters on The Moon
  16. The Substitute
  17. Encounters with Aquatic Chimeras
  18. Bird Language
  19. nimiia cétiï
  20. CUSP
  21. Circadian Bloom
  22. Experts from Asunder
  23. It’s not YOU, it’s me
  24. I Belong to Me
  25. Exodus

I highly recommend taking an hour or two out of your day to trek down to the park and peruse the exhibit. Not only is the visual and auditory experience intriguing, but the questions that the art poses are pertinent and will follow you long after leaving. Click here for the You & AI website.

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