With the rapid emergence of artificial intelligence (A.I.), discussions on the potential dangers posed by the new technology have dominated sectors from media to finance. But for Artechouse, an experiential and technology-focused art space, A.I. represents a tool to further human creativity. This concept will shape its latest digital exhibition, an exploration of what can be produced when man and machine come together.
Premiering on Dec. 1, World of AI-magination will consist of auditory and visual artwork created with the help of generative algorithms. “Hopefully we can provide a space for people to see the potential positives of A.I. innovation within the artistic process,” Rio Vander Stahl, director of Artechouse’s digital strategy, told Observer. “If you feel overwhelmed by it, this is an interesting way to come in and experience what A.I. could have to offer.”
Drawing from both existing and custom generative A.I. programs, Artechouse utilized systems like Stable Diffusion for 3D model animations and generative adversarial networks (GANs) for animated textures, creating more than a million unique datasets. Its title work, a 20-minute visual experience, will take viewers across six narrative scenes. These will include a journey through colossal books and a visit to the GAN Mecca, a scene that drew inspiration from the futurism of architect Zaha Hadid and the surrealism of graphic artist MC Escher.
The main exhibition will be accompanied by six additional installations, including one that captures images of visitors and processes them in the style of the exhibition’s content. Meanwhile, a soundscape composed by Mehmet Unal to accompany the show also intends to utilize A.I. and new technologies.
What is Artechouse?
World of AI-magination will take place at Artechouse’s Manhattan space, a 100-year-old boiler room located underneath Chelsea Market. Artechouse, which first launched in 2015 as the nation’s first digital art gallery, has utilized various technological innovations in its wide-ranging exhibitions, most recently drawing from the James Webb Space Telescope and collaborators at NASA to create Beyond the Light.
With its emphasis on digital evolution, A.I. has long been a primary focus area of the immersive arts space. In 2019, its inaugural New York exhibit consisted of a commission from artist Refik Anadol, whose Machine Hallucination: NYC show used the technology to explore the city through the mind of a machine. “Since then, we’ve worked on it in different contexts, using it as a creation of art or centering it as the focal point,” said Vander Stahl, who added that due to the ever-changing evolution of A.I., Artechouse’s upcoming exhibition utilizes tools that didn’t even exist earlier this year. “Science and technology are evolving so rapidly that you can’t plan that far in advance.”
One of the more dominant concerns regarding A.I. is the technology’s potential to replace jobs and even artists. But, according to Vander Stahl, the use of the tool for Artechouse’s show has generated more collaborators and workers for the show’s development than usual. And while A.I. is being utilized to extend the possibilities of creativity, the project remains entirely human-led. “We are its core, driving the vision and driving the execution,” said Vander Stahl. “It’s not a replacement necessarily, but from our perspective, it’s an evolution.”