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Art AI Festival Workshops: Useless by Design

Students from Brockington College and The Lancaster Academy participated in workshops to create ‘useless machines’ at the 2019 Art AI Festival.

Their creative work was inspired by the video art installation on display at the Haymarket Theatre: Nadine Lessio‘s “Working with Useless Machines”.  In the video, Lessio engages in a series of experiments that illustrate technologies that simply fail to do what they are intended for.  Alexa is grumpy, argumentative and at times lonely, the fortune teller absurd (fig 1).  Useless machines, by their very definition, have function but no purpose!

Fig 1

Haymarket Theatre | May 16-31

Students responded to this by creating and programming robots that did the opposite of what they were told: some ran away from light, some became musical instruments, others repeatedly attempted to destroy themselves.

This short video diary tells you a bit about the workshops, which were generously supported by Haymarket Theatre CEO, Jed Spittle.  We were also delighted that Micro:bit‘s Emma Smart was able to pop along to one of our workshops.  Micro:bit has also donated some of the equipment to us for the workshops, which meant children had an opportunity to test some of the latest kit in building their useless machines, facilitated by the SideFest STEM team, led by Jason Boomer and Emily Kirby.

And this video summarises another day’s proceedings and the hilarious results!

You can see both the video and the artwork on display at Haymarket Theatre, where it is being generously hosted by the venue until 31 May as part of the Art AI Festival 2019.

The event was coordinated by De Montfort University’s DMULocal team, and workshops were managed and facilitated by the amazing SideFest team, a Leicester-based social enterprise that works to promote STEAM education for all.


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Art AI Festival 2019 launch programme “Human+Machine” begins with a guest lecture by Prof Gerhard Fischer

Prof Gerhard Fischer began the “Human+Machine” launch events for the 2019 Art AI Festival with a lecture on human-computer design and the roles of creative artificial intelligence (AI) – see also  He positioned creative AI firstly with an historical overview (fig 1) which ultimately demonstrated how technology today is indelibly linked with creative practice.

Fig 1


He then went on to discuss the future of digitalization, stating it is the design trade-offs that lead to creativity but this is an inevitable balance between AI and human centred design (fig 2), providing various examples that illustrate his viewpoint (fig 3).

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Fig 3


In turn, this highlights the differences and similarities between the AI (fig 4) and human-centred design (fig 5) perspectives.

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Fig 5


There are, however, three basic views of AI among researchers and citizens: utopia, dystopia and realistic (fig 6).

Fig 6

The main question this leads to is: just because technology enables us to do something, should it be done?  Gerhard concludes the future is not ‘out there to be discovered’ but it has to be ‘invented and designed’.  He argues there is a need for alternatives to the ‘AI view’ of a digitized future and that approaches used should enhance and empower individuals and societies to become more creative.  And yet, who will be that inventor/designer?  Should this be left to AI utopians (eg., Google, etc.) and how will their successes be measured for the good of humankind as a whole?


In this short video, Gerhard summarizes his talk and viewpoint.



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Art AI Festival on the LoyalFree app

With thanks to the Leicester BID team, the Art AI Festival’s #creativeAI trail is now available on the @LoyalFreeApp.  As well as local offers and events, tours and trails listings provide really useful information whilst you’re on the move around Leicester.

We recommend you download from the app store asap!

On our trail, which is open and free between 16-31 May, you will see a range of installation artworks by international artists who use AI (artificial intelligence) in numerous different ways –

Mario Klingemann’s “Interstitial Space 2019” at Phoenix

Libby Heaney’s “Britbot” at Phoenix

Gene Kogan’s “Neural Synthesis” at the Leicester Central Library (first floor)

Sofia Crespo’s “Neural Zoo” series at Highcross (adj Next) and Haymarket (opp Entertainer/adj TK Maxx) Shopping Centres

Nadine Lessio’s “Working with Useless Machines” at Haymarket Theatre (first floor)



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Art AI Festival at Leicester Partnership Trust NHS

The first installation of the Art AI Festival 2019 went live on Monday this week and will run for one month – but only for patients, carers and staff at the local hospital.  We were delighted to install Gene Kogan’s ‘Neural Synthesis’ in an outpatients department at LPT NHS.  In this short video, the senior consultant and chair of old age psychiatry (University of Leicester), Elizabeta Mukaetova-Ladinska, explains why she thinks this may benefit her patients.

The Festival Director, Tracy Harwood, originally approached the hospital back in January to see how an AI artwork as part of the Festival might be displayed for the benefit an older age audience. The direction in which this initial discussion has gone is both unexpected and fascinating – and has already resulted in the development of new research project between the clinical and creative technologies researchers.

‘Neural Synthesis’ is a visually stunning video artwork that Gene Kogan created especially for the older audience members of the Festival to be brightly coloured and vibrant.

Members of the public will be able to see the artwork when it is also placed at Leicester Central Library where it will be on display between 16 and 31 May.

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