From Wednesday 5 to Sunday 30 May, the Spazio CORNER MAXXI of the Museo nazionale delle Arti del XXI secolo, in Rome, will open its doors to host the second edition of the exhibition Re:Humanism – Re:define the Boundaries.
Ten artists will investigate the relationship between Artificial Intelligence and contemporary art, inviting to reflect on a future increasingly linked to technology in all its aspects. For this reason, the works will touch on themes related to society, but also to biodiversity, ecological awareness, gender identity.
The artists in the exhibition will be the Entangled Others, Yuguang Zhang, Johanna Bruckner, Irene Fenara, the collective Umanesimo Artificiale, the duo composed by Elizabeth Christoforetti & Romy El Sayah, Mariagrazia Pontorno, Egor Kraft, Numero Cromatico and Carola Bonfili, and their projects in the exhibition are the winners of Re:Humanism Art Prize.
The relationship between contemporary art and Artificial Intelligence is a theme that can not be ignored and, in addition to making us discover worlds and technologies far from our daily lives, can give rise to a healthy debate on the future of art and beyond.
We at Collater.al were lucky enough to ask a few questions to Daniela Cotimbo, curator and President of the association Re:Humanism, who told us what we will find in the exhibition and her point of view on the subject. Don’t miss the interview below and some images of the works and visit the official website to find out all the Infos!
Before talking about the exhibition, let’s talk a bit about you. Your research has always focused on the analysis and investigation of issues related to the present through different and new means of expression and through new technologies. Where do your interest in this subject and these themes come from?
The fascination for the world of technology has always been part of me, I think. I belong to that generation of people who have seen the spread of the Internet and subsequent technologies connected through devices such as smartphones, PCs and more. Behind what seem to be simple tools I read all the complexity of human progress and its social implications. If art has accompanied me throughout my school career, technology has entered in an important way in my research, starting from my three-year thesis, where I explored the worlds of art within Second Life. The approach to artificial intelligence, on the other hand, was born from my meeting with Alan Advantage, the company that promoted the prize, which from the beginning stimulated me with transversal themes and deeper technical knowledge. Today I believe it is really difficult to keep technology out of humanistic discourse.
From May 5 to 30 “Re:Humanism – Re:define the boundaries” will open its doors, what will a person who decides to visit the exhibition find in front of him?
Good question, certainly not a canonical exhibition, in the sense that if you expect to be surrounded by robots, cables and computers (although I love the aesthetics of technology) you might be disappointed. In fact, this award is a testament to how technological languages such as AI are slowly penetrating more and more into the fabric of contemporary art. Artists are using them both as an end in themselves, to better understand their nature and implications, and as a tool to support their ideas or imagine new types of interfaces. Thus, it may happen to see in the exhibition a tapestry that makes us reflect on the concept of extinction of tigers (Irene Fenara), an aquarium populated by a coral reef generated by algorithms (Entangled Others), a bed animated by a non-human gesture (Yuguang Zhang) or the sound recall of a modified DNA (Artificial Humanism). On the contrary, there are other works that tell how artificial intelligence helps us to revisit ancient languages such as Chinese painting (Egor Kraft), the untranslatable Voynich manuscript (Mariagrazia Pontorno) or the poetic verses contained in epitaphs (Numero Cromatico). Finally, there are works that exploit the language and culture that revolve around AI to imagine new forms of relationship between species (Johanna Bruckner), between body and space (Elizabeth Christoforetti & Romy El Sayah) and existence within the digital (Carola Bonfili).
When you try to relate distant and separate disciplines, such as art and new technologies, something extraordinary is often born, but not everyone can understand it right away. How would you explain to these people the need to create new ways of artistic production?
On this we must make a premise, art has always gone hand in hand with what we used to call technique and that today through technological advancement has become a real language. When, for example, cave painting was born, someone understood that he could use tools or his own body to communicate with others in a symbolic language. If we think about this in relation to technology, we realize that what we are witnessing is nothing more than a natural process of evolution of art as an expression of the reality that surrounds us. Certainly technology today runs faster than ever and it is not always easy to keep up with new discoveries and the latest developments. However, it is an effort that needs to be made because the implications, and here I am referring especially to AI, are so many and now concern us very closely. Perhaps the opposite is true, namely that it is the art that, by subverting the rules of the game, helps us to better understand technology.
Among the works that will be on display, the one that attracted my attention the most is “Epitaphs for the human artist” by Numero Cromatico. It is a sort of epitaph that definitively decrees the death of the human artist. Do you think that this figure will disappear completely in the future or do you think that the human artist will resist in time but will have to share the role of the creator with technological devices, artificial intelligence and algorithms?
Numero Cromatico’s work acts on several semantic levels. It certainly helps us reflect on how poetic forms that have been handed down spontaneously, such as the verses normally contained in epitaphs, in the very near future will be totally the prerogative of algorithms. The point, again, is not whether it will be the human artist who will disappear but how these forms of expression will be passed on to us. Are we willing to entrust an intimate memory such as the one that accompanies our lives to an AI? And if so, how will we experience it? To answer your question even better, AI algorithms already have a very developed “creative” potential, the so called “Black Box”, a latent semantic space that is not yet clear to us how it is able to process the data we give it. All this is very fascinating but the real question we should ask ourselves is: what is art “for” and why should an AI replace an artist in this sense? The answer I can give myself today is that AI enhances the creative possibilities of an artist in so many ways that I am very curious to explore.
In the last few years, and especially in the last few months, we are noticing how not only artistic production is becoming more and more linked to the technological world, but also the sale and fruition of art are becoming more digital. Do you think that in this way, in the long run, art will be more accessible to everyone or, on the contrary, will it become more exclusive?
I guess you are referring in particular to the rise of NFTs (Non-fungible tokens) which at this moment represent a very interesting phenomenon within the art world and beyond. Personally, I don’t like sectorizations, I think that technology is now part of the tools available to artists but certainly, not being neutral tools, every time we introduce one we have to expand our gaze to the context of production. I mention NFTs because they actually represent a nice paradigm shift, they push us to conceive art no longer as an object, something to be owned necessarily in a physical way, in most cases we are talking about digital formats that can be presented on screens but also simply be stored in a folder on our PC. Certainly a technology of this kind is revolutionizing the way we approach art, favoring the rise of new types of collectors and enthusiasts. However, we must specify that these collective phenomena could be temporary and due to the initial enthusiasm, what could easily happen is that everything returns to the canons of the traditional art market. So, to answer you, I have to say that the complexity of contemporary art is not something we can renounce to and it is not said that technologies facilitate the access to complex contents, however I believe in a greater need by artists to measure themselves with the themes of our time and this, probably can really facilitate this encounter with the public.