Today, The New Real, a world-leading and Edinburgh-based AI research hub, announces five AI artists who have been awarded The New Real 2023 Development Grants to explore the uncanny interplay of humans and machines, and the social implications of recent developments in AI, as part of The New Real’s AI Art Programme: Uncanny Machines.

Each of the five artists is exploring imaginative ideas that push the boundaries of human-machine creativity, with a view to generate an artwork combining machine learning methods with human intuition and embodied experience, discovering features that are not in the data, and exploring an urgent challenge for our times.

The New Real 2023 Development Grant allows the five artists to conduct research and development (R&D) using The New Real’s AI Platform. The output of the R&D phase is a visual presentation and talk. These five talks will be available to watch on The New Real’s website (link will go live on 28th Mar 2023). and also in-person at the upcoming Scottish AI Summit on 28 March.

An outline of each project and talk can be found below.

A full Art Commission will then be awarded to one of the five artists to bring their concept to life. The Commission is designed to provide transformative experiences for audiences, fuelled by AI, and present an artwork that addresses key challenges in AI, such as authorship, harmful bias or misinformation. The winner of the full Art Commission will be announced in March 2023.

Kasia Molga – How to find the Soul of a Sailor

Kasia Molga presents a very personal journey to find the soul of her father in data from a life spent on the seas. As a child, Molga travelled with her sailor father on merchant navy vessels. He passed away quite unexpectedly 15 years ago leaving diaries from his journeys. In this talk, Molga reports on experiments using The New Real’s AI platform to recreate stories in his voice. She reflects on the ethics of ‘recreating’ fragments of her dad’s personality to create an illusion of his presence – sensing lost loved ones in small datasets.

View Talk here (talk will go live on 28th Mar 2023).

Johann Diedrick & Amina Abbas-Nazari – Voicing the Unspoken

Diedrick and Abbas-Nazari give voice to unheard voices in archival datasets. They address the increasingly convoluted line between human and synthesised speech, and examine the origin of synthetic voices that are speaking to us today. Using The New Real’s platform, they show how it is possible to use textual AI models to “fill in the gaps” of voices missing from historical data, produce speculative speech that never existed, and make those voices audible for contemporary ears. Using the British Library’s archival newspaper dataset, they will compare and contrast voices that exist in UK- and Barbados-based newspapers.

They aim to highlight the biases of colonial history, as well as the biases of the dataset itself – what has been omitted leading to what is not heard, what is not said, and what is not given space to be voiced.

View Talk here (talk will go live on 28th Mar 2023).

Sarah Ciston Asking the Wrong Questions about Generative AI: Emergent Ethics & Aesthetics in Machine Collaboration

Ciston considers how creators interested in using generative tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney should account for the hundreds of thousands of unwitting co-authors whose content was scraped online, from e.g. Reddit, for their proprietary models. Ciston presents alternative techniques that can make space for new aesthetics and ethics to emerge through community-centred approaches to machine learning: namely, conscientious dataset stewardship, small dataset curation, data sovereignty, and reimagining machine learning models from scratch. In this talk, Ciston explores the ethical and aesthetic implications of large-scale collaboration with machinic and human co-authors, and discusses the critical impact of automated systems on language use and creative collaboration.

View Talk here (talk will go live on 28th Mar 2023).

Alice Bucknell – Cones of Uncertainty

Alice Bucknell explores novel metaphors for grappling with the forces of artificial superintelligence. She draws on recent advances in climate modelling and machine learning to help us to think of both AI and extreme weather events as entangled, multiscalar issues. Bucknell reports on her creative experiments with The New Real’s platform and presents a new video work drawn from her research. Using an expanded AI toolkit including Word2Vec, Copernicus climate projections, GPT-3, and a custom Stable Diffusion model trained on the storm paths crossing Florida, the artist’s home state, over the last 100 years, Bucknell’s work expands on our capacity to grapple with both the unfolding climate crisis and our relationship to nonhuman intelligence.

View Talk here (talk will go live on 28th Mar 2023).

Linnea Langfjord Kristensen & Kevin Walker – Fold Me, Bend Me, Break Me, Said the Computer

In a folded world of multiple intelligences and pervasive but invisible structures, how much agency do we really have, and what can we do about it? Kristensen and Walker use artistic practice as a means of unfolding complex concepts and systems in AI. When we fold something, the fold divides, separates and multiplies what is folded at the same time as it connects sides, reveals and hides. Folding is thus a contradictory act, simultaneously deleting and opening up. This concept has been applied to AI and intelligence more broadly. The artists show how an audience can become enfolded through immersion and interaction, and conversely how the ‘black box’ of AI can be unfolded by going inside it.

View Talk here (talk will go live on 28th Mar 2023).

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