LINK – Artificial Intelligence and Culture?!
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Original language: German
Culture shapes the future
In the summer of 2018, the Stiftung Niedersachsen [Foundation of Lower Saxony] set out on an experimental research journey by developing the new LINK support programme, in order to encourage the cultural scene in Lower Saxony to engage with the topic of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and explore the options for AI applications in art and culture. The programme incorporates an initial launch conference (May 2019), an AI school for creative artists (November 2019 to May 2020) and the development and support of up to five collaborative projects involving artists and scientists.
Initiating cooperation between culture and AI
The initial launch conference was held in Hannover in May 2019, attended by 165 creative artists and data scientists with an interest in culture. On day one, the participants were given a structured introduction to the topic in the form of seven presentations, and in the evening they enjoyed a wide-ranging cultural programme from the world of artificial intelligence in the Kunstverein [Art Society], Literaturhaus [House of Literature] and municipal cinema. On the second day, discussions intensified using practical examples in sector-specific workshops, contacts were forged, and project ideas were gathered for participants’ own AI applications.
The AI school: painting Picasso with Python
From an analytical and creative perspective, there appears to be almost unlimited potential for using artificial intelligence methods in the cultural sphere. “New” works by Rembrandt or Picasso will be created, Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony will be completed, and additional sonnets in the style of Shakespeare will be composed. In order to enable creative artist to try out AI in their field of work, the very first things that are required are programming skills and a methods catalogue.
In the AI school, the basics for developing machine learning models in the cultural milieu will be taught through practical projects. Initially, during the first four months of the course, the methodologies will be learned from existing projects drawn from the realms of music, art, and literature, and the first artistic experiments carried out. In the subsequent two months, using the skills acquired, individual projects can be initiated in collaboration with the other participants and with the support of the tutors.
The AI school is aimed at creative artists who are interested in technology, but not necessarily trained in this area. The course is restricted to 20 participants in order to facilitate small groups of learners. The training programme will take place via online lectures and programming exercises, with weekly consultations and monthly block events in Hannover to resolve any outstanding questions and for advice. Free online tools will be used, so that the participants merely need to have their own laptops. The main programming language is “Python”, which incorporates a number of libraries and tools for developing new types of cultural projects.
An interim conclusion
Of the 20 participants, two come from music, four from museums, one from architecture, one from literature, five from art, four from theatre, two from film, and one from education. The spectrum of their motivations and their own project ideas are as diverse as their prior knowledge and level of experience. On the first of seven classroom-based days, it already became clear that some participants have significant overlapping fields of interest, and could work collaboratively on projects during the remainder of the course.
After initial doubts had been overcome, and as the course advanced, a certain direction emerged in what is very unfamiliar content, and it was possible to ask significantly more focussed questions. In the remaining sections, many aspects will recur which will result in the workload becoming more manageable. It is not merely possible, but indeed makes absolute sense to teach creative artists how to programme algorithms. Due to their very unique perspective on the data material, and a distinct way of working, they will achieve different results and ask other questions to those IT specialists would ask.
About the author: Dr Tabea Golgath is an advisor for museums and art at Stiftung Niedersachsen, and runs the LINK support programme. As a regional cultural foundation, Stiftung Niedersachsen is actively involved in art, culture, science, and education in the federal state of Lower Saxony. Through its support of not-for-profit projects, it strengthens cultural diversity in the region and has an operational role through ten of its own programmes.