On June 12th I’ll be leading a discussion for The Interrogang, a monthly meetup at Artefact, Stirchley, on the role of artists and artworks in addressing issues related to data, AI and computing trends.

All are welcome! The event runs 7:30 - 9:30pm.

This is obviously a massive topic that could go in all sorts of directions so I’d like to use Golan Levin’s 20 minute talk to Google engineers as a framework.

Golan is an artist and educator who teaches at Carnegie Melon and directs the Studio for Creative Inquiry. He’s been making art with computers and data for many many years and, as an academic, has a good handle on what it all might mean.

While this talk is pretty rapid fire and doesn’t shy away from academic language, it outlines some very useful areas that I’d like us to discuss.

Bottom Feeding on Surevillance Technology

This feels like a good description of what we’re all doing when we’re working on data projects as artists, researchers, hackers etc. This relationship dynamic feels worth exploring.

Once AI works it just becomes engineering

Using AI tech for “useless”, serendipitous things helps retain it’s intelligence.

This is a common defense of art - that it must be useless because without that we lose our humanity. Interesting to see Golan apply that here. Is he right?

Augmented Hand Series


This computer-vision app videos a hand and adds, subtracts or warps fingers live.

“The confusing ownership of a body”.

“To make our most familiar extensions unfamiliar.”



Play with it online

“a visual search engine for satellite imagery”

Orbital insight for the rest of us.

“Maybe useful but mostly useless thing that allows you to see the world in a new way, to see structure where maybe you didn’t see it before.”

Golan describes it “in short” as:

  • an instrument for visual discovery.
  • a scafold for cybernetic serendipity.
  • an augmentation for controlled surprise.

The Most Wanted Paintings


Artwork that parodies the attempts to quantify artistic masterpieces through empirical surveys.

Talking about digital works that strive to be “Art”: “What these approaches miss is the relationship of the artwork to its audience, and the socal context of this transmission.”

When The Machine Made Art

by Grant Taylor.

Considering how culturally indispensable digital technology is today, it is ironic that computer-generated art was attacked when it burst onto the scene in the early 1960s. In fact, no other twentieth-century art form has elicited such a negative and hostile response. When the Machine Made Art examines the cultural and critical response to computer art, or what we refer to today as digital art. Tracing the heated debates between art and science, the societal anxiety over nascent computer technology, and the myths and philosophies surrounding digital computation, Taylor is able to identify the destabilizing forces that shape and eventually fragment the computer art movement.

Seeing Things that Aren’t There


Using Optical Illusions, talks about finding technologies that “beat the brain”.

Pareidolia - a psychological phenomenon in which the mind responds to a stimulus, usually an image or a sound, by perceiving a familiar pattern where none exists.

“You see life in the things around you whether you want to or not.”

“Intelligence is in the mind of the beholder and artists are great at manipulating the mind of the beholder.”

Great AI art made by engineers



Janelle Shane’s generative names for things.

  • Joyous and useless. We appreciate them because there is a grain of truth in them. (Literally, as they’re generated from real names.)

Image Synthesis from Yahoo’s open_nsfw

  • “This is conceptual art of the highest order!”

Worries and Concerns


As an artist he’s sensitive to a side of visual culture and the way in which visual techniques are being optimised within it.

Face Tracking of occluded faces (masks, scarfs, etc)

  • Evil twin of edges2cats.

Computational Gaydar

Why does this happen?

  • Individual Level
  • Institutional Level

Involve Artists in Research Laboratories

Concludes with:

  • Artists bring criticiality to environment vulnerable to tech-optimism and technophilia.
  • Help predict shots from the outside. “Maybe you shouldn’t do that?”

Discussion points

Since artists are adept at understanding the disconnect between the world and how we see it, can they warn us when that disconnect is being exploited for evil?