FrAIday Talks

UmArts FrAIday Talks

1 March 2024
Alan Warburton, The Wizard of AI, 2023, title card.

UmArts organises public talks about Art and AI as part of the TAIGA FrAIday lunchtime talks at Umeå University. The UmArts online program introduces artists, writers, curators, designers and architects who are contributing to the social and ethical discourses of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. The Art & AI talks are moderated by WASP-HS Guest Professor Sarah Cook.

The FrAIday talks take place every Friday 12.15-13.00 CET. You can read about the whole series and register for the zoom link here.

See below for speaker profiles and abstracts:

Online Talks:

Fri 1 Mar 24 12:15 pm – 1:00 pm

Alan Warburton: The Wizard of AI

Alan Warburton is an artist, animator, author, curator and video essayist working with CGI, VR, AR, installation and sculpture. Warburton’s animated films and critical video essays investigate computer graphics and visual culture. He’s currently researching digital images and labour for a PhD at Birkbeck’s Vasari Centre in London.

Warburton’s most recent film The Wizard of AI (2023) is a 20 minute video essay about generative AI, produced one year after the release of Midjourney v4. Treating this particular release in November ‘22 as an historic moment in visual cultures and creative economies, the essay focuses on the real impacts this technology continues to have on artists and designers around the world. The video itself was produced using generative AI tools, and is 99% comprised of images and videos created with Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, Runway and Pika. Yet the artist is careful not to give in to the ‘wonderpanic’ brought about by generative AI, using generative AI tools themselves to discuss and critique the legal, aesthetic and ethical problems engendered by AI-automated platforms.

The Wizard of AI was commissioned by: Data as Culture at the ODI. Visit their Wizard of AI page here.

Warburton has previously received commissions from the BBC, Tate Modern, Photographers Gallery and Channel 4; exhibited work at Transmediale, Ars Electronica, National Gallery of Australia and undertaken residencies and given lectures at the V&A, Somerset House, Carnegie Mellon and the Architecture Association School.

Fri 2 Feb 24 12:15 pm – 1:00 pm

Sarah Cook in conversation with Paola Torres

Curator Sarah Cook will introduce the challenges and intrigues of commissioning new art and exhibitions which investigate the fast changing aesthetics of Art and AI.

Paola Torres is a doctoral candidate in Stockholm (Stockholms Konstnärliga Högskola), an artist, curator and researcher. She will be in conversation with Sarah Cook about curating the exhibition Sentient Machines together with Chat-GPT-3, and about the Futureless Festival and the ideas and goals behind it.

Dr Sarah Cook is the UmArts Guest Professor of Art and AI at Bildmuseet and Umeå School of Architecture, supported by WASP-HS; and Professor of Museum Studies at the University of Glasgow.

Fri 1 Dec 23 12:00 pm – 12:45 pm

Alana Kushnir

How do existing laws affect AI-assisted art? What types of legal issues arise at each layer of the AI production stack?

Machine learning tools are being adopted by a growing number of artists to assist in the creation of artworks. While we are witnessing new laws and policies being developed to address the risks of AI more generally, several existing areas of law already do interfere with this innovative way of art-making. This talk will explore those existing areas of law – particularly intellectual property, contract and privacy – by analysing the legal issues that can arise at each layer of the AI production stack, from its base physical layers to its various protocol layers. Presented as part of the ongoing research of the Serpentine Legal Lab and Creative AI Lab.

Alana Kushnir is an art lawyer, advisor and curator based in Melbourne, Australia. In addition to being the Founder and Director of Guest Work Agency and Guest Club, she is the Principal Investigator of the Serpentine’s Legal Lab, a space for investigating legal issues and prototyping accessible legal solutions for the arts technologies field. She is also a Board Director of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), and a regular writer on art news and exhibition reviews for Broadsheet Media, and a member of the Art, Cultural Institutions and Heritage Law Committee of the International Bar Association.

Kushnir is a finalist for the 2022 Lawyers Weekly Australian Law Awards Sole Practitioner of the Year and Innovator of the Year categories, and was a finalist in Blockchain Australia’s inaugural ‘Blockies’ Awards for Educator of the Year in 2021.

Fri 3 Nov 23 12:00 pm – 12:45 am

Tega Brain

Artists engaging with recent developments in the field of artificial intelligence continue a long history of artistic work that explores the politics and unintended consequences of computational technologies through strategies like hacking, misuse and open-ended experimentation. Within this context Tega will share recent work that examines the possibilities and limitations of data, quantification and artificial intelligence in environmental inquiry and ecological management. Might new technologies like AI produce new ecological relations or do they simply reinforce existing power structures? How are artists re-imagining these technologies and their role in our lives?

Tega Brain is an Australian-born artist and environmental engineer whose work examines issues of ecology, data, automation, and infrastructure. She has created digital networks that are controlled by environmental phenomena, systems for obfuscating personal data, and a wildly popular, online smell-based dating service. Her work has been commissioned and exhibited by museums and galleries worldwide. She is a 2023 Creative Capital awardee, an Industry Associate Professor of Integrated design and Media, New York University, and her first book, Code as Creative Medium, is coauthored with Golan Levin and published with MIT Press.

Fri 9 Jun 23 12:15 am – 1:00 pm

Stephen Marche

Stephen Marche is a Canadian essayist and novelist who has been experimenting with AI since 2017. In this FrAIday talk Marche will be in conversation with curator Sarah Cook to discuss his creative process of using AI to write The Death of an Author  a groundbreaking, suspenseful experiment in the meta world of man meets machine.

Sarah Cook is Guest Professor in Art & AI with UmArts in partnership with Umeå School of Architecture and Bildmuseet. She is Professor of Museum Studies at the University of Glasgow.

Stephen Marche is the author of half a dozen books, including The Next Civil War, The Unmade Bed: The Messy Truth About Men and Women in the Twenty-First Century (2016) and The Hunger of the Wolf (2015). He has written opinion pieces and essays for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Esquire, The Walrus and many others. He was been working on AI since 2017 and has published the first AI-generated novel reviewed in The New York Times, Death of an Author.

Fri 26 May 23 12:15 pm – 1:00 pm

Irini Papadimitriou 

Irini Papadimitriou, Magic, Myth and AI: Today we see a deluge of applications of AI around us — from song, video or shopping recommendations to Siri’s assistance, navigation and facial recognition. At the same time, we are saturating the world with Generative AI technologies producing huge amounts of content varying from images, audio, text or synthetic data. How are present and future narratives about the world being shaped by AI, who holds the power and control over these systems and whose lives are affected? This talk will explore these questions, art’s role engaging with AI and ethical issues that arise from the production of these technologies.

Irini Papadimitriou is a curator and currently Creative Director at FutureEverything. She was previously Digital Programmes Manager at the V&A – where she initiated programmes such as the annual Digital Design Weekend festival and Digital Futures, and Head of New Media Arts Development at Watermans. Her display, Artificially Intelligent, was exhibited at the V&A in 2018 and in 2021 she curated You and AI: Through the Algorithmic Lens for Onassis Foundation in Athens, followed by Plásmata: Bodies, Dreams, and Data in 2022. Her most recent exhibition, Money, Ruins, and the Sea was presented at NeMe in Cyprus. Irini is a co-founder of Maker Assembly, a critical gathering about maker cultures, and she has been a co-curator for the Arts & Culture experience at Mozilla Festival, including the 2019 exhibition Trustworthy AI: Imagining Better Machine Decision Making. She is a recipient of curatorial research programmes including MOBIUS (Finnish Institute), Art Fund Jonathan Ruffer, Mondriaan Fonds and British Council and she has served as a jury member for Prix Ars Electronica, D&AD Awards, Lumen Prize, EU STARTS and ACM Siggraph.

Fri 24 Feb 23 12:15 pm – 1:00 pm

Joanna Zylinska

Joanna Zylinska, artist, writer and curator, Professor of Media Philosophy + Critical Digital Practice at King’s College London. Moderated by Ele Carpenter, Director of UmArts.

Drawing on her philosophical work and her art practice, Joanna Zylinska will interrogate whether we can actively mobilise nonhuman creativity as a way of opening up our all too human ways of thinking and acting. She will also explore whether AI, rooted as it is in the extractivitst logic of the tech industry, can overcome its own material conditions of existence. Could AI play the role of a philosopher-visionary that will show us a way out of the current socio-political impasse? Could it get beyond the limitations of our human frames of mind to imagine a different set of propositions and arrangements? Could it help us envisage a better future?

Joanna Zylinska is an artist, writer, curator, and Professor of Media Philosophy + Critical Digital Practice at King’s College London. She is an author of a number of books, including AI Art: Machine Visions and Warped Dreams (Open Humanities Press, 2020), The End of Man: A Feminist Counterapocalypse (University of Minnesota Press, 2018) and Nonhuman Photography (MIT Press, 2017). An advocate of “radical open-access,” she is an editor of the MEDIA : ART : WRITE : NOW book series for Open Humanities Press. Her art practice involves experimenting with different kinds of image-based media. She is currently researching perception and cognition as boundary zones between human and machine intelligence, while using machine learning to try and answer the question: “Does photography have a future?”.

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