Cinematic Experiments with Artificial Intelligence: Exploring the Expressive and Activist Potential of AI from an Arts and Humanities Perspective

When 9 Apr 2021
12:00PM - 2:00PM
Where NYU Tisch School of the Arts
721 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
United States

A symposium featuring pioneering artists Lynn Hershman Leeson, Toni Dove, and Paul Vanouse.

Artificial Intelligence seems to be everywhere these days, although the ancient idea of synthetic consciousness has been fuelling the popular and technological imaginary for centuries. While there is much focus on AI from a Science and Technology perspective, the contributions of AI to the Arts and Humanities have not yet been fully explored. This symposium aims to chart an international and cross-cultural historiography of “expressive AI” [1] –that is, the combination of AI art practice and scientific research –in order to uncover productive ideological and epistemological overlaps between the Arts and the Sciences. The symposium will feature artists who have been critically working with AI, machine learning, robotics, computational tools and other [then] emerging technologies before those were mainstream and corporate.

Instead of focusing on technological fetishism, early expressive AI from the late 1990s and early 2000s addresses complex sociopolitical issues. In historically marginalized contexts of experimental media practices, interactive AI prototypes have been developed and critically utilized by politically invested feminist artists such as Lynn Hershman Leeson (Agent Ruby, multimedia installation and web interface, 1998-2002; DiNA, network-based multimedia installation, 2004, and newer works) and Toni Dove (Sally or the Bubble Burst,DVD-ROM with voice recognition software, 2003, and newer works) to interrogate the relationship between technology, gender, surveillance, and socio-economic inequalities. Since the 1990s, collaborative, AI-oriented multimedia projects such as The Consensual Fantasy Engine (Paul Vanouse and Peter Weyhrauch, 1995) and Terminal Time (Steffi Domike, Paul Vanouse, and Michael Mateas, 1999-2000) contributed to new breakthroughs in documentary filmmaking and provide early examples of the now popular practice of i-docs (interactive documentaries). By challenging the freedom of choice and agency that interactive technologies promise to consumers, these and other AI experiments immerse their audience into critiques of democratic systems, techno-colonialism, racial debates, consumer profiling, data mining ethics, and complicit surveillance –issues that are now even more relevant and urgent.

By envisioning alternative trajectories for AI futures through past “futuristic” practices, the symposium objective is to reconfigure more inclusive and ethically informed paths for AI practice, machine learning, and algorithmic culture.

Organized and researched by NYU Cinema Studies professor Marina Hassapopoulou, as part of an International Research and Collaboration Award from the University of Cambridge’s Mellon Sawyer seminar “Histories of Artificial Intelligence: A Genealogy of Power.”

Symposium website and AI database [coming soon!]:

Research assistance and website management by NYU Cinema Studies PhD candidate Da Ye Kim.

Free and open to the public. Registration required.

For more information please click here.
Image courtesy of the event organizer.