A one-of-its-kind exhibition, titled ‘Keep Running: AI (artificial intelligence), Art and Qatari Heritage’ by Canadian artist Dr James She puts a spotlight on a series of AI paintings created at the height of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak in Qatar last year.
“All these pieces are the first, I’m quite sure, at least the first collection of AI artwork produced in Qatar or even in the region,” said Dr She, also an associate professor at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU)’s College of Science and Engineering.
He is one of the artists selected as part of Doha Fire Station’s Artist in Residence programme, which provides mentorship, working with curators, open studios and access to the building’s facilities such as fabrication lab, woodshop and exhibition spaces.
Speaking to Gulf Times, Dr She said he used an emerging technology dubbed as ‘GAN’ or Generative Adversarial Network for his show – enabling a computing machine to learn from the visual features of photographs and then allows it to understand and create art like a human.
“Basically, I used a lot of photos of horses (taken) during the pandemic last year. I was staying in the hotel and opposite is the Souq (Waqif), and there is a horse stable,” he said.
“All I do (at that time) is go for exercise and every time I pass by the horse stable, I take a lot of pictures of the horses and then I used all these pictures to feed into the machine that runs the technology, and it starts to learn, just like a kid. When it learns what a horse looks like, it starts to paint, and based on some information that I provide, the machine will keep drawing every moment,” said Dr She, who arrived in Qatar a few months before the pandemic.
He named his collection ‘Keep Running’ for three reasons: first, he had the opportunity to continuously produce and generate artworks using AI technology while staying at home during the outbreak in 2020.
“Fundamentally, it actually keeps telling (us that) we as humans we need to evolve our life even under difficult times, to keep running,” Dr She noted.
Second, he said the horse – a Qatari heritage symbol – depicts a country’s strength, endurance and persistence in the face of a current or future global crisis and it will keep running to grow and find its own way to succeed.
And the third reason, according to Dr She, is a constantly changing technology that helps artists produce their works, debunking people’s skepticism on how AI becomes a realistic art.
He described it like a spirit that pushes artists to become more creative by constantly running new ideas, creating art with new technology such as AI.
“That is why we created the first AI horse painting (in Qatar and the region) because a horse is also a popular subject matter in art history,” Dr She said, stressing that he was not the first to make use of AI for artmaking globally.
He noted that the world’s first AI art was just sold through an auction house in 2018, and the second in 2019.
“I hope that we will be the first one in this region. We’ll see, it (AI) is still new, and as an educator in the university, I am also teaching AI for multimedia. I’m trying to train students to pick up AI technology not just for art, but for different kinds of creative industries,” Dr She said. “I believe that hopefully by my involvement in the university and also in the museum here, we will foster more people to adopt this technology to create AI art.”
As an associate professor at HBKU, Dr She’s research area also includes making use of AI technology to help humans be more creative such as letting a machine do a certain job.
“This is also my area, how to use AI technology to free our time and our mind so that people will have more capacity for something more creative. That also explains why we don’t need to worry that AI will replace us,” he said. “We try to delegate some repetitive, time-consuming work to AI, to leave us more time and energy for something more creative.”
‘Keep Running’, along with the ‘Mohammed Atiq al-Dosari: Attention’ exhibition, opened on March 10 and will run until April 7 at Doha Fire Station Gallery 3.
Source : Gulf Times