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Inside India’s First Solo AI Art Show

Inside India’s First Solo AI Art Show

  • India’s first solo exhibition of AI art is put together by art curator Myna Mukherjee in collaboration with 64/1 and backed by Engendered.

Harshit Agrawal, 29, is exhibiting his work titled ‘EXO-Stential – AI Musings on the Posthuman’ at the Emami Art Gallery in Kolkata. The art show will run through 11th-30th September 2021.

India’s first solo exhibition of AI art, put together by art curator Myna Mukherjee in collaboration with 64/1 – an art collective founded by brothers Karthik Kalyanaraman and Raghava K.K. and is backed by Engendered, trans-national arts and human rights organisation.

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The work descriptions for the show include:

Masked Reality: In this interactive video (here), where the viewer’s facial expressions are transformed into those of a (female) Kathakali performer juxtaposed simultaneously with that of a (male) Theyyam ritual participant, Agrawal has worked with two different AI algorithms. The first algorithm learns to break down the structure of any video image of a face that it sees into the basic facial structure, and the second learns to add the appropriate face paint to that basic structure to transform it into the face of a Kathakali performer or a Theyyam medium. 

Strange Genders – A piece by 64/1 (Karthik Kalyanaraman and Raghava KK) and Harshit Agrawal: Around 1000 people are asked to draw a standing ‘woman’ and a standing ‘man separately’. An AI is trained on these drawings and taught how to draw human figures. However, unlike humans, an algorithm trained on both genders, when asked to produce drawings of humans, can only produce an image that has a certain probability of being recognised as, say, female by a second AI which is taught to classify an object on a spectrum from ‘female’ to ‘not female’. Two works of art are created from this process: a poster inspired by the S. Indian Saiva Siddhanta concept of the Bindu or the female material origin of the universe, and three books that catalogue both the (strange) human binary conception of gender and the machine’s (natural?) reconstruction of a gender spectrum.

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Machinic Situatedness: Most AI art depends on large publicly available datasets, which largely tend to be Western in origin and content. Agrawal brings out a new possible aesthetic by first creating his dataset of Thangka paintings of the Buddha and using this dataset to bring a formal freshness to AI art. Further aside from the AI that learns the formal structure of a thangka painting, another ‘upraising’ AI is trained to convert low-resolution blurry images to higher resolution, which then works on the low res thangka paintings of the first AI to produce the final paintings.

Apart from these, Still life: icon and fetish; The Machine in the World of Platonic Forms; The Artist as Community; Tandem; and The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Algorithm will also be showcased.

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