ARTDAILY | 10 September 2020

Art Daily has profiled Annka Kultys Gallery as the first commercial art gallery to represent a humanoid robot artist on the occasion of Ai-Da’s solo show Do Robots Dream of Electric Bees?

Annka Kultys Gallery is the first commercial art gallery to represent a humanoid robot artist

LONDON.-Annkya Kultys Gallery in East London is the first commercial art gallery to represent a humanoid robot artist. Ai-Da, the world’s first ultra realistic AI humanoid robot artist, is set to open her first solo London exhibition at Annka Kultys Gallery on the 10th September 2020. 

Ai-Da, the brainchild of Gallery Director Aidan Meller, is the first robot capable of drawing people from life using her eye, and a pencil in her hand. Using AI processes and algorithms developed by PhD students at Oxford University, Ai-Da’s ability as a humanoid robot to draw and paint from sight has never been achieved before, and makes Ai-Da an artist in her own right. 

Titled Do Robots Dream of Electric Bees, a play on the novel by Philip K. Dick, Ai-Da’s first solo London exhibition will present a new selection of Ai-Da’s artwork including drawing, painting, sculpture and a video artwork. Thematically, the exhibition the exhibition deals with global warming, the extinction of species to the uses and abuses of future technologies. 

Ai-Da continues to develop the theme of bees and environmental concerns through the sculptural depiction of a bee in bronze. The decimation of bee populations from man-made pesticides is an especially poignant motif. In Dick’s novel, earth has become so devastated after the nuclear war that ownership of real animals becomes the de facto status symbol to assess social achievement. And while the threat of human extinction via nuclear war recedes, with 2020 being 75th anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last and only nuclear explosions in armed conflict, humankind is arguably facing the new but equally existential threat of extinction from global warming. 

The exhibition will raise some of the most profound issues facing the art world and humanity more generally at this point in history. What relationship will robot artists have to their human counterparts? What really separates man from machines? Can robots ever achieve consciousness? What will be humanity’s relationship to its environment? And does humanity as we presently understand it even have a future? 

Ai-Da’s bionic hand and ability to draw have been developed by AI engineers in Leeds. Ai-Da’s Artificial Intelligence analyses the person in front of her and then creates a virtual path for Ai-Da’s arm to follow, the path is fed into an algorithm that gives real space coordinates, enabling the arm to move across the paper and produce a drawing. 

The drawings included in the exhibition pay homage to a number of world-famous artists, including Marc Chagall, Käthe Kollwitz and Pablo Picasso. Ai-Da has portrayed them by using the microchip located in her eye to scan images of the scientists and then sending messages to her robotic arm to map out their facial features on paper. 

A series of abstract paintings have been created using Ai-Da’s Artificial Intelligence. Scientists have taken the coordinates used by Ai-Da’s arm when drawing, and fed these into an algorithm based on the cartesian plane equation. The algorithm has then transcribed Ai-Da’s drawings into abstract paintings. 

The exhibition will feature bronze sculptures that are based on Ai-Da’s drawings of a magnified 3D scan of a bee. The sculptures have been created using AI processes developed by PhD students and then rendered by a computer scientist based in Sweden. 

Video Works
Ai-Da will also be presenting one large scale video work, her performance Privacy (2019, single channel video, 11 min 29 sec). Performed at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford in 2019, the work entails members of the audience approaching Ai-Da on stage and draping scraps of recycled cloth over her ‘naked’ robot body. The work pays homage to Yoko Ono’s seminal 1964 performance Cut Piece, in which Ono sat alone on stage in front of a pair of scissors in her best suit and audience members were able to approach her and cut away pieces of her suit and under-clothes. Beyond the inherent contingency of performance and the work’s engaging and playful nature, Privacy raises issues of concealment and identity: who decides how we appear to others? Are we really free to appear as we may wish? What are the controlling elements, some seen, some perhaps unseen, that determine how we present ourselves to the world? 

Ai-Da the Robot Artist
Ai-Da is the first ultra-realistic humanoid AI robot artist in the world. She was manufactured by Engineered Arts in Cornwall, and was completed in April 2019. Ai Da’s inaugural exhibition Unsecured Futures took place at Oxford University in June 2019. The exhibition sold over £1m of art before opening. Since Ai-Da’s launch in 2019, she has shown at leading public arts venues such as the Barbican, Tate Modern, Ars Electronica and Abu Dhabi Art, and been interviewed by Tim Marlow when Artistic Director of the Royal Academy. In February 2020, she presented a TEDx talk, which received over 100,000 views in its first few days online. In July, Ai-Da was commissioned to create a video artwork for the 1975’s song “Yeah I Know” for the launch of their album NOACF. Ai-Da’s schedule for 2020-21 includes a further seven museum shows, and exhibiting at the United Nations.

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