Art and artificial intelligence: a strange couple?
Last Thursday, I gave a public lecture, with my longtime friend Ivan Bianchi, on the topic of art and artificial intelligence. The event was organized by the “Galileo Festival” in Padua, for Innovation Week.
Ivan is professor of contemporary art at the University of Padua. We have known each other since we were two years old because our mothers were friends. We have followed very different paths but we both found ourselves in university and research positions in Padua, and we were able to participate together in several events where art and science are in the spotlight. Giving a conference together is twice the fun!
The event took place in the historic “Sala Rossini” of Caffé Pedrocchi (see above), in the city center, and was broadcast live to participants online. We were a little surprised to see that the hall was full of attendees, but looking back I think the venue, timing and overall organization all played their part in maximizing the attention the event received. .
Since people are generally more interested in art than science subjects, I left most of the time we had with Ivan and took it upon myself to introduce the subject. and guide the audience through a discussion of what it really is. that we are talking about when we talk about Artificial Intelligence. I made some use of the material I had used earlier this year when I was invited to the Accademia dei Lincei (by its vice-president Giorgio Parisi, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics a week ago !) – I won’t repeat a summary of the discussion here like I did in this other post (which surprisingly has already collected over 134,000 pageviews …)
At the end of my half hour, in order to bridge the following art-centric discussion, I showed and discussed a video that demonstrated how deep learning techniques are used to complete unfinished symphonies and works by giants of classical music (Beethoven, Mahler, Schubert) – you can find the relevant material and a video at this link.
Ivan explained how artificial intelligence is used in contemporary art today. He discussed how instruments powered by artificial intelligence can be used as artistic objects (the case presented was a robotic arm that took center stage at the 2019 Biennale in Venice) creating a performance of which they are the authors, or as supporting tools to produce works of art (such as robots that can sculpt marble figures and leave the artist only the finishing touches), or as true subjects of artistic production, such as a robot that creates paintings with acrylic paint on canvas. I won’t go into the details of his explanation of the various trends and ideas, but you can certainly listen to the talk in the video linked below (however, it’s in Italian, unfortunately):
Tommaso Dorigo (see his personal web page here) is an experimental particle physicist working for the INFN and the University of Padua, and collaborates with the CMS experience at CERN LHC. He coordinates the Collaboration MODE, a group of physicists and computer scientists from eight institutions in Europe and the United States who aim to enable end-to-end optimization of detector design with differentiable programming. Dorigo is editor-in-chief of the journals Physics Reviews and Open Physics. In 2016, Dorigo published the book “Anomaly! The physics of colliders and the search for new phenomena at Fermilab“, an insider’s view of the sociology of major particle physics experiments. You can get a copy of the book on Amazon, or contact them for a free pdf copy if you have limited financial means.