Text by CLOT Magazine
HeK —House of Electronic Arts Basel— is an interdisciplinary Swiss art institution dedicated to digital culture, new technologies, and the new art forms of the information age. From May 9, 2019, Hek is hosting Entangled Realities: Living With Artificial Intelligence, an international group exhibition focusing on artificial intelligence and its effects on human lives and society. Some of the artists exhibiting are Ursula Damm, Holly Herndon and Mat Dryhurst, Mario Klingemann, Lauren McCarthy, Anna Ridler and David Pfau, among others.
New Media artist Ursula Damm has developed, especially for HeK, Membrane. Damm uses a live webcam to reveal how machines see and interpret, progressing from analysis to synthesis and fiction. One of Mario Klingemann’s latest project is a collaboration with Italian musician and visual artist Francesco D’Abbraccio for his music-driven multidisciplinary project Lorem, and HeK is presenting the European premiere of Uncanny Mirror. Artist Mario Klingemann trains GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks) to interpret data sets while creating new and striking images. Visitors encounter their own image as interpreted and “seen” by an AI. On her side, Assistant Professor at UCLA Design Media Arts and artist Lauren McCarthy, who examines the social relationships in the midst of surveillance, automation, and algorithmic living through her practices, has created an AI that guides the visitor through the exhibition.
New technologies have always been reflected in art, and artificial intelligence is being used extensively in art so it’s not surprising that for curators Sabine Himmelsbach and Boris Magrini, it seemed necessary to curate an exhibition that highlights the most recent investigation of artificial intelligence by artists. Himmelsbach and Magrini told CLOT Magazine that their main aims behind Entangled Realities: Living With Artificial Intelligence were to address current topics and issues that are socially relevant. Art is about the world around us. It speaks to our present time and also the changes that come with new technologies.
Thanks to the advances in neural networks and machine learning, AI applications are being extensively implemented in a huge variety of fields, from health care to education management and economic processes, with a considerable impact on the society. This trend will continue to grow in the future, and it is essential that artists and cultural institutions engage in discussion about the opportunities and dangers of the future development of AI that is being shaped today, they added.
For Himmelsbach and Magrini, one of the main axes of the exhibition in terms of curation, since they did not have the intention to build an historic exhibition, was “to draw a trajectory from works that use artificial intelligence for the creative process itself to works that show how machine-based algorithmic systems perceive the world and what effects this has on us as individuals and society as a whole. With an increasing presence of artists using AI and new technologies in the last years, the main challenge was to find works that are both qualitatively interesting from an aesthetic perspective and at the same time conceptually relevant in the discussion of artificial intelligence and its context.
And the third incognito of the equation is the audience: what do Himmelsbach and Magrini want to bring to the visitors coming to Entangled Realities: Living With Artificial Intelligence? Our aim is to make the audience aware of the existence of AI in our daily lives, and to experience how entangled we are with the virtual world. Himmelsbach and Magrini are not interested in giving a single and critical point of view, they are more interested in enabling the audience to understand how these systems [AI] are functioning because only by understanding how these systems work, operate, and perceive, can we decide how we want to interact with them.
Entangled Realities: Living With Artificial Intelligence runs from May 9 – August 11, 2019, in Hek (House of Electronic Arts Basel), Freilager-Platz 9, 4142 Muenchenstein/Basel, CH.