by Sukanya GargSep 20, 2019
STIR speaks to Aparajita Jain, Director of Nature Morte art gallery, who organised India’s first artificial intelligence (AI) show Gradient Descent early last year. We speak to her about the role and future of AI art, and how it is expected to change the art scene in India and internationally.
Sukanya Garg (SG): What kind of changes do you foresee in the field of art creation in the next decade with the advent of AI art?
Aparajita Jain (AJ): I think that given the advent of technology over and above AI, we are going to see more and more of technology-based art, which we are already seeing. Like the last few decades saw video, photography, or a mix of them, mixed media installation, I think AI art, using it as a tool of AR (augmented reality) or VR (virtual reality) art, it’s going to become part of practice.
SG: In the climate of an increasing dispensability of human skill, how will the present generation and even the next one adapt? Are traditional artists at a threat? What do you think is the future of conventional art forms?
AJ: I personally don’t think traditional art is threatened because people will always want paintings on their walls. It’s like poetry. Just because an AI can write poetry, doesn’t mean that human thought and human poetry will not be appreciated. It’s like with the advent of photography the canvases didn’t disappear. Just another medium was added. Like for example, something like K-pop happens, now I am talking music, it doesn’t remove pop or hip-hop, it just adds Korean pop to it.
I think what we are looking at is not replacement but addition. We are growing the field. I think even with VR, there aren’t so many sophisticated AI artists; right now the fanciness is about the tool, the content is nowhere near where it can be or will be in terms of thought content. So, when I say that it can happen, it’s going to grow and not only are we going to see new artists coming up with AI-based art but we are going to see existing artists work with AI art.
SG: How will art viewership, consumption and procurement change in the coming times?
AJ: Let’s talk about consumption. For example, Team Labs. They are not AI based but immersive. They lease out their works. They ticket their work; they don’t sell their work essentially. So, we are looking at a millennial based conversation here, which is experiences over acquisitions. I feel that seems to be the way of the world. That will also be one way which is not something that has been really explored before and there will be regular art that will be bought. So, what I do think will get replaced is the technology to make the processes smoother, making provenance better, those things will happen, but I don’t think that canvas art and photography will go away. Just one more thing will get added is how I see it.
SG: AI art seems to be the next great art movement. Where does India stand?
AJ: AI is really a baby. For much more to happen, institutions and the art realm have to grow and artists have to push themselves. Art grows through experimentation. Ultimately AI works through datasets; somebody is entering those data sets. So you can never not have a human intervention. I feel that education and art has to be looked at seriously about how we are prepping our future generations. Right now, there is just one AI artist from India, which is shocking, and it’s because he had the opportunity to go to MIT Media Labs. Can everybody afford to go there? There isn’t so much exposure to art itself in India, forget AI art. These conversations need to happen.
Coding, machine and applications seem to be a language more important than any other language in the world today. – Aparajita Jain
SG: In the internet age of AI and algorithm-fed prejudices, the boundaries between real and fiction are increasingly blurring. What then is the meaning of authenticity? Can an artist take credit on behalf of an AI code? What will be the new code with regard to ownership and copyright issues?
AJ: The thing is, an AI in my head is very clear. No AI piece can work without having human-entered data sets and then engaging the algorithm. The algorithm is also created to come up with some solutions based on what it’s been told. Suppose I enter a 100,000 pictures of landscapes, then I do have to enter through the algorithm what a landscape looks like. It is very much human led. It’s like saying, are you going to pay the camera or are you going to pay the photographer? Who are you going to pay? If somebody created the algorithm, then they need to be given due credit. So, basically, all these algorithms are open source. Multiple engineers all over the world are working to rectify that code. Those people need to be given co-credits; I can’t imagine a machine being given co-credit. That algorithm came from a human mind. That human mind needs to be given a co-credit if anybody. Machine is a calculator, but the ideator gets the credit. That said, we are working on a platform that solves the authenticity problem. The minute we show it to the public though is when I will be able to talk about it.
SG: What kind of projects are you looking at in the upcoming year?
AJ: We have Thukral and Tagra coming up next after Martand Kholsa. Then we have Olivia Fraser, then we have another artist called Salman Toor. During the Art Fair 2020, we will have Dhruvi Acharya going on at the gallery, Bharti Kher at another location and one more show. So we have a lot going on.
SG: In the present art climate, what STIRs you up?
AJ: What stirs me up is that we have so many things that we can contribute to. We are a nascent, young art scene in India. We have so much growth opportunity and potential and that is what stirs me that I can make an impact. That’s what matters to me.