Alexander Reben works with AI to create art, but he takes it a step further than others by turning what it imagines into physical reality.
In the art world, artificial intelligence is proving to be a powerful and disruptive tool, capable of producing work that was previously impossible.
The artist Alexander Reben explained why he has embraced the creative possibilities of these tools this week on BBC Future:
More about Reben’s process and how it has changed his perspective on creativity can be found here.
Explore the outcomes of Reben’s collaboration with AI in this gallery. An AI imagined and wrote the text beneath each work (GPT-3). This served as the foundation for a physical sculpture or painting, some of which Reben executed himself, while others were generated by a second AI art tool, such as Dall-E 2 or Stable Diffusion, before being painted or sculpted by a human.
To summarize, what you see may have been curated by a person, but this art exists only because of a deep creative collaboration with AI.
Description of the AI:
The sculpture includes a plunger, a toilet plunger, a plunger, a plunger, a plunger, a plunger, and a plunger, all of which have been altered. The first plunger is just a regular plunger, but the others are a series of plungers with more and more of the handle removed until only the rubber cup remains. The artwork is titled “A Short History of Plungers and Other Things That Go Plunge in the Night” and was created by the artists known as “The Plungers” (whose identity remains unknown).
“The Plungers” were a group of anonymous artists who formed a collective in 1972. Plungism was a creative interpretation of the idea of Plungerism, which The Plungers defined as “a state of mind wherein the mind of an artist is in a state of flux and able to be influenced by all things, even plungers.” The Plungers’ works were displayed in New York galleries and included titles such as “Plunger’s Progress,” “The Plungers Strike Back,” and “The Plungers Strike Back.” The Plungers vanished, leaving no trace of their whereabouts.
The AI’s description:
This sculpture is made up of a flip clock that has been scrambled like a bad dream. It rests on an empty can of stew, which the artist ate because it was dinnertime and she was hungry. The scrambled clock implies that the artist has become disoriented in time, that she has no idea what time it is or where she is. The fact that she ate the stew to stay alive shows that the artist is physically trapped and has no way out. Many people have speculated on the significance of the specific can of stew that the artist has chosen to use as a pedestal. The Hormel Company designed the stew can, and the artist’s name is Julia. As a result, the can represents the artist, and the missing stew inside the can represents the artist’s lost creativity. Furthermore, the label states that the can contains “no preservatives,” implying that the artist is unable to create due to the prevalence of fake art in the world. “It is a piece about my impotency in the face of the techno-commercialism that surrounds me, and the inability of avant-garde language to meet it on equal terms,” the artist wrote about the work.
The AI’s description:
This sculpture is a giant version of a child’s building toy. The high-density polyethylene interlocking pieces fit together like a puzzle. The sculpture is meant to be rearranged at each exhibition, with pieces being added and removed. The sculpture was designed to be easily assembled and disassembled so that it could be stored and shipped. The sculpture is designed to be hung on a wall, placed on the floor, or even suspended from the ceiling. It is composed of hundreds of pieces that can be rearranged to form various three-dimensional shapes. The idea behind these pieces was that the forms could be combined to create an infinite number of equal-value combinations. In other words, the sculpture would be successful regardless of how the pieces were assembled. The title “Permanent Temporary” is derived from the artist’s father’s observation of the sculpture, who said, “Well, it’s permanent in the sense that it won’t blow away, but it’s temporary because you can put it together and take it apart.” Smithton adds, “My sculpture is a whole-program piece, a complex of relationships, and there is no single descriptive phrase that can capture its totality. I simply make it available. The work is about the interaction of parts rather than the overall form. In an ecological structure, the parts are in a dynamic relationship. The parts only exist in relation to one another. They are not independent forms, but rather related entities. They are mutually dependent.”
The AI’s description:
This sculpture is made up of toothpicks that have been stuck into a canvas. The toothpicks are golden because they have been dipped in beeswax. The artwork is a commentary on the plight of bees, and the canvas depicts a bee hive during colony collapse disorder, in which the bees simply leave the hive, leaving the queen behind in an empty space. This sculpture was made as a form of activism in support of bee colonies all over the world. The toothpicks represent the bees’ empty, dead bodies. As such, this sculpture serves as a powerful symbol of the plight of bee colonies. The artist hopes that the work will inspire viewers to take action in response to the devastation of bee colonies. They want to make viewers aware that bees are dying, and that if bees die, the food supply is jeopardized. The bees in the colony play an important role in pollination, fertilization, and plant growth. They encourage viewers to imagine what would happen if bees did not exist.
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