When the stars of the contemporary art world descend on Venice later this month for the highly anticipated Venice Biennale, among them will be Ai-Da Robot, the most famous ultra-realistic humanoid robot artist (and the alone) of the art world, as it was described by its creators.
Titled “Leaping into the Metaverse,” Ai-Da’s solo exhibition in Venice is technically a side event of the biennale, curated by the Concilio Europeo dell’Arte, but it’s about as close to it as you can get. main event without being on stage. Ai-Da invests the InParadiso gallery, inside the restaurant at the entrance to the Giardini, which houses many national pavilions of the biennale.
Ai-Da, whose name is a tribute to the pioneering mathematician Ada Lovelace, makes drawings, paintings and sculptures, and is also a kind of performance artist, interacting with the spectators. Its creator, gallery owner Aidan Meller, considers it both an artist in its own right and a work of conceptual art. (Meller and his robot also have a fair share of criticism.)
This is not the artist’s first high profile exhibition. She has exhibited works at the Design Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and last fall took part in ‘Forever Is Now’, the first-ever contemporary art exhibition at the Great Pyramid of Giza.
This latest engagement hit a snag when Egyptian customs officers detained her at the border on suspicion of spying. (There was talk of removing her eyes, which are cameras, but Ai-Da was eventually allowed to enter the country intact.)
In a world increasingly infiltrated by artificial intelligence, Ai-Da’s exhibition in Venice will look to the future and how humanity will interact with AI technology, in particular with the expected rise of the metaverse.
But the theme of the show, inspired by that of Dante divine comedyalso points to the potential dark side of AI’s growing influence on our daily lives, likening the Metaverse to Purgatory, a place halfway between fact and fiction where no one wants to get stuck for too long.
“The greatest artists in history struggled with their times, and both celebrated and questioned the changes in society. Ai-Da Robot, as technology, is the perfect entertainer today to discuss the current obsession with technology and its ongoing legacy,” Meller said in a statement. “The so-called ‘progress “Is technology something we really want, and if so, how should it manifest?”
But the exhibition also highlights Ai-Da’s growing talents as an artist.
She made her first drawings at Oxford University in 2019, holding a pencil in her robotic hand and drawing based on what she could see with her camera eyes, with input from AI algorithms. His first self-portrait will follow in 2021, and Venice will mark the debut of his first paintings, made using a real artist’s palette, just like his human counterparts, and a new state-of-the-art painting arm.
The highlight of the exhibition will be Ai-Da painting live, creating four portraits during the opening week. There’s also a series of new self-portraits that depict the robot artist with his eyes closed. The eight-foot-tall canvases are meant to remind the public that technology is blind and can be dangerous if used without regard to its consequences, and reflect imagery of Dante comforting the blind in the second circle of the Hell.
Other works on display will include Flowers on the edge of Lethe, which turned sketches generated by Ai-Da’s AI algorithm into 3D-printed flowers. The installation is intended as a reminder of the flowery banks of the Lethe River, the river of oblivion, in the divine comedyand is inspired by Alan Turing’s early work on artificial intelligence, which he claims is “something like the unpleasant quality of artificial flowers”, but which “would also greatly help us to discover how we think about ourselves”.
If you missed Ai-Da’s previous releases, she’s bringing her “Leaping into the Metaverse” glass artwork from the V&A to Venice, as well as Immortal riddleher Giza sculpture of herself with three legs, which draws a comparison between ancient Egyptian belief in the afterlife and contemporary efforts to use biotechnology to artificially extend our lifespans.
“Ai-Da Robot: Leaping into the Metaverse” will be presented at Concilio Europeo Dell’Arte, InParadiso Gallery, Giardini della Biennale, Castello 1260-30122, 30122, Venezia, Italy.
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