Last week at Art Museum Stuttgart I saw a really cool exhibit called "SHIFT," which focused on various conceptualizations and manifestations of artificial intelligence (AI), and AI's profound ecological, sociological, political, and economic impacts on the world. The museum's website describes the project:
The exhibition project developed by the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart and the Museum Marta Herford deals with artistic perspectives on artificial intelligence (AI). AI is based on algorithms that are already having an impact on political, economic and social processes—both visible and invisible. As a key technology of the 21st century, AI has long since arrived in mainstream society. It is associated with both hopes and concerns.
The term »SHIFT« underlines the thesis of the exhibition that this digital technology is permanently changing the idea of a community in which people, nature and technology are in a cooperative relationship.
Eight international artistic positions will be shown. The works make the complex interrelationships of AI comprehensible. They are based on investigations into real and artificial physicality, digital surveillance, biological intelligence and hybrid life forms, social power relations, language technology, immortality and NFTs. The artists always ask the question of ethical responsibility when dealing with AI.
Both the exhibition and the "Studio 11. Space for Art Education" offer the opportunity to deal fundamentally with AI. The extensive accompanying program was designed together with the Stuttgart Center for Simulation Science (SC SimTech) and the Cyber Valley Stuttgart / Tübingen.
One of the most interesting pieces in the exhibit was by artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg, whose website describes her artistic practice:
Dr. Heather Dewey-Hagborg is an artist and biohacker who is interested in art as research and technological critique. Her controversial biopolitical art practice includes the project Stranger Visions in which she created portrait sculptures from analyses of genetic material (hair, cigarette butts, chewed up gum) collected in public places.
We discussed her work here at Boing Boing, back in 2016, via this interview with Chelsea Manning, the subject of the piece I recently saw in Munich. "Probably Chelsea" consists of 30 sculptures of Manning's face—all created from one genetic sample from Manning—suspended from the ceiling, as if they were floating in air. I was astounded at how different they all were—it's hard to believe they were all derived from the same genetic sample, which is one of the problems with AI-focused data analysis that this piece raises. The placard at the exhibit described the work:
For "Probably Chelsea" she created thirty different versions of possible portraits of the US-American Chelsea E. Manning from one genetic sample. Manning, a soldier and IT specialist, had leaked classified data on U.S. activities during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan to the website WikiLeaks in 2010. She was arrested and sentenced to prison in 2013. With the sculptures, the artist gave her public visibility during her time in prison, during which Manning underwent gender affirming surgery. Dewey-Hagborg's work illustrates that the analysis of genetic and personal data, increasingly done through AI, is not always definite or leading to clear conclusions.