Is ARTECHOUSE’s ‘World of AI·magination’ the Future of Art?

Head to NYC's Chelsea Market to dip your toe into the world of A.I.-generated art.

World of AI·magination Exhibition in New York
‘World of AI·magination’ at ARTECHOUSE NYC. Photo by Fatih Aktas /Anadolu via Getty Images

A 6,000-square-foot futuristic art space hides below the popular food hall and shopping hub that is New York City’s Chelsea Market, and the unassuming white-on-black sign on the brick wall outside belies the intensity of what visitors experience. What lies beneath the market is ARTECHOUSE, an immersive technology-powered art space that aims to “stimulate interest in the limitless possibilities of creative innovation and to push the boundaries of what is possible.”

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ARTECHOUSE’s current exhibition is titled “World of AI·magination,” but don’t make the mistake of assuming AI in this context stands for artificial intelligence. Rio Vander Stahl, the art space’s director of digital strategy, told Observer that in this case, it stands for ‘artificial imagination,’ which is an apt description of what visitors to the techno-futuristic art gallery encounter.

SEE ALSO: Navigating the Evolving World of Digital Art

Just inside the space, there is a large frame encircling a hypnotizing pool of colors—like a moving display of paint splotches. Infinite Looking Glass is a portal reminiscent of a mirror that draws inspiration from Alice in Wonderland’s “Through the Looking Glass.” Stand in front of it, and the colors morph into a kaleidoscope of different shapes in response.

The contemporary art space specializes in experiential works that challenge the normal consumption of art, but “World of AI·magination” takes it one step further with GAN- and Machine Learning-generated pieces that showcase what can be achieved when man and machine collaborate.

In the GAN gallery, shelves containing various photo frames lit up—each projecting moving abstractions and mesmerizing sceneries. Three human-sized brown book spines with gold decals flanked the shelves, but the one in the center was a screen with a video projection of a book spine. Standing in front, the viewer is transported by the magical imagery in a multi-colored archway. 

World of AI·magination Exhibition in New York
ARTECHOUSE’s ‘World of AI·magination’ merges human creativity with machine intelligence. Photo by Fatih Aktas /Anadolu via Getty Images

GAN, which stands for Generative Adversarial Network, is a framework for approaching generative artificial intelligence, and it can be seen in action as visitors enter and manipulate the unique A.I.-generated art. In a sense, we become mystics in charge of the world around us—ARTECHOUSE’s dynamic 17.5k digital canvases. Clouds, stained glass and abstract webs of color, with visuals inspired by M.C. Escher, Zaha Hadid and others, shift and morph based on where we stand and how we move. It’s a distinctive experience that’s truly immersive and feels particularly adventurous.

You’re in control of your adventure, but also not. “It’s whatever it sparks for you,” Vander Stahl said.

Passing the XR (or Extended Reality) Bar, which serves exhibition-inspired cocktails and mocktails that become art via the ARTECHOUSE XR mobile app, visitors enter the vast space that houses the focal point of “World of AI·magination,” a 20-minute floor-to-ceiling audio-visual digital art experience comprised of six distinct scenes enhanced by sanctuary-like music. In the Library of Magical Portals, which plastered the walls with colossal books of the same design as the spines seen outside the GAN gallery, each book brings the viewer to stunning abstract worlds.

World of AI·magination Exhibition in New York
Visitors get comfortable in ‘World of AI·magination.’ Photo by Fatih Aktas /Anadolu via Getty Images

Observers sit on the floor and lean on pillars in the space. A few even make themselves at home, laying prone in the center of the room to be surrounded by imagery. Some of what was projected in the show was reminiscent of future-scape, digital glitches and vapor-wave aesthetics, with dark blues, purples and pinks. Some transported visitors into the clouds or under the sea. But all of it, regardless of how it struck the eye, invited people to consider what a world created by A.I. (with some creative human intervention) might look like.

World of AI·magination” is on view at ARTECHOUSE NYC through March 17.

Is ARTECHOUSE’s ‘World of AI·magination’ the Future of Art?