Unsupervised”, when AI comes to the Museum of Modern Art in New York

Since November 19, visitors to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York can discover Refik Anadol’s exhibition, “Unsupervised”. Entering the Grund Hall at the entrance to the museum, they are faced with a 24-by-24-foot media wall featuring three new digital works from Refik Anadol Studio that use AI to interpret and transform more than 200 years of art from the MoMA collection.

Refik Anadol, born in 1985 in Istanbul, currently residing in California, Los Angeles, is a media artist, director and pioneer in the aesthetics of artificial intelligence. He is also a lecturer in the Department of Design Media Arts at UCLA, where he earned his second Masters of Fine Arts.

His work, at the crossroads of art, science and technology, addresses the challenges and possibilities that ubiquitous computing has imposed on humanity, and what it means to be a human in the age of the AI. The audiovisual performances proposed by Refik Anatol have been presented in prestigious monuments, museums and festivals around the world and have received various prizes and awards.

The Refik Anadol Studio includes designers, architects, data scientists and researchers from diverse professional and personal backgrounds, embracing the principles of inclusion and equity at every stage of production. They collect data from digital archives and publicly available resources, and process these datasets with machine learning classification models.

The project Unsupervised – Hallucinations Machine – MoMA »

Unsupervised is part of Machine Hallucinations, the project started in 2016 and still ongoing from Refik Anadol Studio exploring the aesthetics of data based on collective visual memories, using AI as a collaborator of human consciousness, in particular algorithms DCGAN, PGAN and StyleGAN trained on large datasets to deploy unrecognized layers of our external realities.

For six months, the software created by the studio team, with the help of engineers from Nvidia Research, was powered by 380,000 very high-resolution images taken from 138,151 works in the MoMA collection, including Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Gertrudes Altschul but also the Pac-Man video game by Toru Iwatani. Among other things, the team used NVIDIA’s StyleGAN2 ADA to train their model for three weeks using an Nvidia DGX Station A100. She then explored a latent space with her Latent Space Browser software, which she has been developing since 2017.

In November 2021, Unsupervised was released on the new media platform Feral File. Some of the NFTs in the collection have sold for thousands of dollars, one even reached $200,000.

The exhibition at MoMA

Images are 1024 x 1024 pixel resolution, created in real-time and constantly changing depending on acoustics, light movements, those of the audience captured by a camera mounted on the hall ceiling and recorded weather conditions by a station of a nearby building. These inputs result in forces that affect various software levers, which in turn affect the ever-changing imaging and sound.

For Michelle Kuo, curator at MoMa, who co-curated the exhibition:

“AI is often used to classify, process and generate realistic representations of the world. By contrast, Unsupervised is visionary: it explores fantasy, hallucination, and irrationality, creating an alternative understanding of artistic creation itself. »

Comment from Refik Anadol:

“We don’t see anything real, it’s just the imagination of the AI. The AI ​​in this case creates this pigment that doesn’t dry out, a pigment that’s always on the move, always changing, and constantly evolving and creating new patterns.”

This exhibition, which according to MoMA’s senior curator, Paola Antonelli, “underlines its support for artists who experiment with new technologies as tools to expand their vocabulary, their impact and their ability to help society understand and manage change” will be held until March 5.

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