This Show is Curated by a Machine 🤖

curate an art exhibition using artificial intelligence

July 1, 2021

by: mowna

The Museum of Wild and Newfangled Art (mowna) is currently in the research stage of an AI curator for their final show of the year "This Show is Curated by a Machine 🤖" which directly answers the Whitney Museum of American Art's curatorial question, "The Next Biennial Should Be Curated by a Machine."

Goals for the project:

The following are some quotes related to some artificial intelligence projects happening in and around the space of art curation.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, rather some interesting things to think about for anyone interested in this work.

If something sounds interesting you can click the quote to open the source.

"Art, culture, and heritage are sensitive subjects that require respect. This work aims to celebrate culture and diversity and explore art in a new way. AI has known biases."

"Like our digital machines, museums engender wonderful experiences—and they're also engines of bias, power, and invisibility."

"Roles for machine learning in the art museum are still rare in practice."

"The names and dates of works and their makers; curatorial descriptions and histories of exhibitions; colors and dimensions; images of objects themselves—encountering such data as these, algorithms chart invisible relations, forge new connections, and breed monsters."

"Perhaps there is a way that technology can help us better comprehend this missing dimension or regain access to this imaginative and powerful realm."

"Machine learning makes it possible to begin visualizing the diversity and complexity of artistic creation."

"Not an attempt to extrapolate an omniscient or monumental view of the entire history of art."

"Artistic decisions made by model designers have ethical implications that cannot be ignored, such as the degree to which a GAN takes context and provenance into account."

"Why then, should a museum see fit to use AI rather than human intelligence to curate its shows?"

"Is it possible that AI can be better than skilled curators with decades of experience?"

"Experiments in AI are at the stage of gathering data and improving algorithms."

"It seems, therefore, that what was once the job of curators could be automated. Certainly, this would look more likely if automatically curated galleries started to perform better than other institutions in terms of visitor numbers."

"Some artists have already said that they don't approve of the approach now being experimented with. AI used in this way will become a race for more, not better, interactions, thereby devaluing art and museum exhibitions to the level of social media."

"As machines get smarter, more complex, and able to operate autonomously in the world, we'll need to program them with certain 'values.' Yet we do not agree on what we value: across cultures, across individuals, even within ourselves. We often do not act in accordance with what we say we value, so should these systems learn from what we say or what we do? What are the implications of how our current belief systems manifest in the swiftly approaching technological future?"

"The biggest debates in AI today revolve around safety."

"How to weigh privacy against efficiency and accuracy. The more data an AI system has access to, the better it performs."

"Minimizing the quantity and type of data that can be used in AI systems may seem wise in an era when companies and countries are vacuuming up all the personal data they can and paying little attention to the risks of misuse. But if regulations winnowed the amount of data that was processed, leading to less accurate performance for products such as medical diagnostics, society might want to reconsider the tradeoff."

"The bad news is that the mathematical functions are so complex that it is impossible to say how a deep-learning machine obtained its result."

"Society faces a tradeoff between performance and explainability. The dilemma is that the most obscure systems also offer the best performance."

"Consider a hypothetical AI system that improves the accuracy of a diagnostic test for a fatal medical condition by one percent. Without the technology, there is a 90 percent chance of making an accurate diagnosis; with it, there is a 91 percent chance. Are we really willing to condemn one out of 100 people to death just because, although we might have saved him or her, we wouldn't have been able to explain exactly how we did?"

"AI technologies, at their most advanced levels, do not merely assist human knowledge; they surpass it."

"It is one thing for cars to become driverless, but what happens when a museum becomes curator-less?"

"We can expect more projects like this to emerge that further to challenge the status quo of art curation."

"We must acknowledge that creative bots are already creating paintings, writing screenplays, and composing music. In the future, will AI write object labels, script audio guides, and assist with interpretation? Should we allow machines to do this?"

"What can be understood from the image itself?"

"Credit human labor and culture where it is used in AI datasets and frameworks, and reveal their impact on the results."

"Reject AI as black box, in favour of openness and human-centered intelligence."

"Embrace AI as creating originality, rather than copying and repurposing dead, already-produced output."

"The role of the curator has shifted from a governing position that presides over taste and ideas to one that lies amongst art (or object), space, and audience. The motivation is closer to the experimentation and inquiry of artists."

"We're not yet at the point where machine learning takes over curation, but some are already considering those possibilities."

"We began to see some surprising experiments hinting at the creative and artistic possibilities latent in these models."

"How might an AI understand or appreciate art?"

"We don't want it to be about evaluating the correctness of the AI's response. Rather, this is an invitation, for viewers to see works of art as an AI would."

"This is a human exercise in computer vision."

"The biggest gap in this thought experiment: Agency."

"Even the most sophisticated AI, at least as of this writing, cannot be said to possess anything that a human would describe as agency. It may master the game of Go or convincingly pass a conversational Turing test, but it never does so spontaneously, out of its own desire. Might an AI even have desire? (Or for that matter, do humans, really?)"

"What can we learn from looking at art through computer vision eyes?"