Artificial Intelligence Gets Arty at Tate Britain

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If you do one thing this month – check out Recognition – the IK Prize winning virtual gallery at Tate Britain. Recognition uses the technical prowess of AI to pair-up present-day images from news provider Reuters with visually and thematically similar pieces of British art work from Tate Britain’s collection, spanning some 500 years. Primarily a digital gallery, you can view the ever-expanding project online here. Love going to art galleries? Check out the supporting display at Tate Britain itself.

Recognition, by Fabrica Italy’s Angelo Semeraro, Coralie Gourguechon, Monica Lanaro and Isaac Vallentin, made the top spot out of hundreds of entries vying for the coveted IK Prize 2016 for digital innovation. Artificial Intelligence was the theme for this year’s IK Prize, awarded by Tate Britain in partnership with Microsoft. Applicants were set the challenge of using the cutting-edge medium of AI to explore, provoke thought and understand British art from the Tate collection in an entirely new way.

As you would imagine from tech giants Microsoft, who worked closely with Fabrica to bring Recognition alive, the technology going on under the hood of the project is pretty sophisticated. Facial and object recognition together with contextual, compositional and even language analysis form just some of the markers from which artistic matches are made. The closeness of the machine-made matches is displayed as a percentage alongside all the project’s imagery.

Recognition’s accompanying display at Tate Britain enables us humans to make the AI even more intelligent. Three large screens showcase the technical filtration process and consequently the matches generated, but of course machines are machines and they don’t always get it “right”. Some of the pairings may seem a bit bonkers to the human eye (though certainly thought-provoking which to me is a lot of what art is about) and visitors to the gallery have an opportunity to suggest an improved counterpart based on a pool of alternative art work.

Recognition is noteworthy to me for a number of reasons but above all it is a fantastic example of how technology can encourage us to learn and think in new ways. Art gallery frequenter or not, digital news devourer or not, Recognition’s technology makes differing worlds collide, generating thought and perspective on Britain’s artwork over centuries and modern frontline photojournalism.

Recognition is open until 27th November 2016. 

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On 3rd November 2016
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