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Installation : Working with Useless Machines

Nadine Lessio's Working with Useless Machines is a video artwork.  The work documents a critical design project exploring some speculative and humorous thoughts around what happens when smart devices go against their intended functionality.

Focusing specifically on developing routines for the Alexa and Google Home, the project considered personal assistants that have emotions, internal motivations and control over their direct physical environment to express themselves.  This leads to many unexpected interactions and behaviours.

The goal of the project is to critique the current corporate placement of these devices as helpful, by exploring the idea that as systems become more autonomous, they may not necessarily have our best interests in mind.

Alongside the the video art, in workshops with Leicester-based schools, children have responded to a brief to develop their own “useless machines” that reflect the artist’s goal.  A selection of these are also on display.

As part of the ART AI Festival 2019 artwork trail, Working with Useless Machines is on display at Haymarket Theatre, 1 Garrick Walk, Leicester, LE1 3AF (first floor) - download map.  Alongside the artwork, after 22 May, a selection of Useless Machines, created in workshops by local school children, taking place during the festival and which will be featured on the blog.

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Installation : Neural Synthesis

Gene Kogan's Neural Synthesis is a video artwork that explores and expands upon the technique popularly known as ‘deep dream’. This is an iterative process for optimising the pixels of an image to obtain a desired activation state in a trained convolutional network. It primarily experiments with the dynamics of feedback-generated ‘deep dream’ videos, where each frame in the film is initialised by the previous one. The novel aesthetics are achieved by ‘gating’ (or ‘masking’) the pixel gradients of multiple channels and mixing them using predetermined masking patterns, while simultaneously distorting   the input canvas.

A number of strategies used to create the artwork are directly inspired by the initial work of Google’s Deep Dream implementation, particularly the work of Mike Tyka who first experimented with feedback, canvas distortion (zooming) and mixing gradients of multiple channels.

The trained network used is Google’s Inceptionism network. The workflow for generating the artwork is under continuous development: future improvements include a more generalised canvas distortion function and improved masking from source images.

As part of the ART AI Festival 2019 artwork trail, Gene Kogan's Neural Synthesis is on display at Leicester Central Library, Bishop Street, Leicester, LE1 6AA - download map.

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The Kitty AI

It is year 2039. An artificial intelligence with the affective capacities of a kitten becomes the first non-human governor. She leads a politician-free zone with a network of Artificial Intelligences. She lives in mobile devices of the citizens and can love up to 3 Million people.

Excerpt from “The Kitty AI”:

“I was only 8 months old when all hell broke loose in West Eurasia. Well actually that makes 15 human years for a cat, so perhaps I wasn’t that young.

We were all terrified, man, woman, cat, dog, child, kitten, all of us. In hindsight, P-Crisis EMEA, was almost as terrifying as World War II, in that, its emotional impact on our collective consciousness was significant. At least to us millennials who have been very well isolated from concepts like scarcity and frugality – it was a shell shock.

We had experienced violence but mostly from video games or CGI heavy horror movies.  We had experienced loss, but only when we lost our iPhones or broke up w/ our “swipe-right” girlfriends. We had experienced chaos, but only in our desktops or our bedrooms while looking for clean underwear amidst a vortex of scarcely worn outfits."

More about the artist here:


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#Love Apparatus

Located at the Eastgate Entrance, Highcross Shopping Centre @apparatus_love Can apparatus love? We don’t know for sure, but surely they can say things about love! “#LoveApparatus” (@apparatus_love) is an art installation created for the ART-AI FESTIVAL, taking place Leicester between 30 April and 13 May 2018. #LoveApparatus delivers generative love text aphorisms that will be projected in Highcross Shopping Centre, Leicester, and posted to the twitter account “@apparatus_love”. Combining scrapping techniques, neural networks – using machine learning, an artificial intelligence technique – and a social network account, this art project delivers every 3 minutes a novel ‘love quote’ for its followers. The public can interact with the apparatus by tweeting using the hashtag “#LoveApparatus”. All public contributions are analysed by the algorithm to identify its level of ‘loveliness’, and the ones with a high score are fed into the network to generate future love quotes.

More about the artist here

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Comments from Ernest Edmonds, pioneer of AI in art

It is exciting to have the Art-AI Festival in Leicester this year and very appropriate to see the strong support from De Montfort University. DMU’s involvement goes back nearly 50 years, when it was Leicester Polytechnic.

(available on Amazon)

Two Invention of Problems events around 1970 showed art experiments and presented talks on the subject, including by one of the most important pioneers of AI in art, Edward Ihnatowicz. He returned later in the 70s for what was probably the first full conference on the subject, Human and Robot Behaviour. That was a meeting of scientific and artistic minds coming from such groups as Edinburgh’s AI Lab and the Royal College of Art.

A few years later another pioneer of Art and AI, the late Harold Cohen, spent some time at Leicester Polytechnic inspiring both staff and students. Today DMU’s Institute of Creative Technologies (IOCT) is a strong player in the Art-AI field with several members using AI in their art and music as a standard part of their practice.

(both available on Amazon)

Craig Vear is an internationally renowned composer whose music employs AI and I myself have employed AI in various aspects of my art for most of my career. The latest work of Fabrizio Poltronieri, a relatively recent recruit to IOCT, can be seen as part of the festival.

(Fabrizio Poltronieri’s installation for the Art-AI Festival,

located in Highcross Shopping Centre)


Ernest Edmonds

Professor of Computational Art

Institute of Creative Technologies

De Montfort University


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