PRESS RELEASE INSTALLATION VIEWS ARTWORKS ARTIST INFORMATION VIEWING ROOM
23 SEPTEMBER — 21 OCTOBER 2023
FRIDAY, 22 SEPTEMBER, 6–8PM
How do you paint a self-portrait with no conscious self? Perhaps the reinvention of the idea of consciousness is a good place to start. Ai-Da, a humanoid AI-powered robot, challenges many fundamental and long-standing binaries between human vs machine and organic vs synthetic intelligence. In an ongoing performance wherein Ai-Da’s very existence can be considered an ever-evolving artwork, her work generates powerful new protocols for who or what—gets to be an artist.
ANNKA KULTYS GALLERY is delighted to present Ai-Da’s second solo show at the gallery’s East London location. Unveiled in 2019 by art gallery director Aidan Meller in collaboration with PhD students from the University of Oxford, Ai-DA is the world’s first robot artist. She is named after the Victorian Ada Lovelace, The world’s first computer programmer and significantly, a woman.
The exhibition at ANNKA KULTYS GALLERY features six limited editions of Ai-Da’s work. These range across scale and typology, from her early abstract paintings to her more recent self- portraits. As such, the exhibition is a testament to Ai-Da’s ever-evolving skillset and underscore her vital contribution to the advancing discourse around art and technology. Self potrait – Loucin (2023) is the largest work on show. Complemented by an elegant black frame, the self-portrait features dreamy washes of baby pink and light blue, with Ai-Da’s unmistakable image front and center. Self portrait—Aspicco (2023) presents Ai-Da’s likewise presents recognizeable profile in thick and expressive strokes, this time outlined in a radiant pistachio hue. Self Portrait — Cuaen (2023) is perhaps the most unique work on show. It could be likened to a quick pen and ink sketch, with Ai-Da’s curious gaze complemented by watercolor-like splotches of cool blue, soft lilac, and charcoal.
Alongside these rich portraits, a range of abstract works offer insights into Ai-Da’s engagement with colour theory and symbolic sophisticated. The work Shattered Space – Recusme Quercus (2023) offers a darker colour field, where complex geometries unfurl across bands of mossy green, deep purple, and warm ochre. Meanwhile, Shattered Space—Igarul Apis-Ipsa (2023) appears something like an exploded star, cosmic in scope, a fitting metaphor for the genesis of all forms of life and interwoven intelligences—machine, synthetic, and human.
Ai-Da’s gaze is cool and collected. Her eyes shine brightly in the interviews she gives; the light reveals flashes of the embedded ocular cameras she uses to paint, which transmit signals into her robotic arm, communicating and rendering visual data into paintstrokes. There is something mythical and otherworldly to her mere existence. It is a trait that has drawn thousands of visitors to see her worldwide at her exhibition venues ranging from the V&A in London to the United Nations, Abu Dhabi Art, and even the Great Pyramids of Giza.
It is easy to romanticise or reduce Ai-Da’s practice and presence to a science-fictional narrative or uncanny experiment, but in reality it is not so far at all from the process of ‘conventional’ human art-making practices. We import data from the world with our eyes; brain synapses fire, communicating that sensory intake into a mental image, which provokes muscle movements that result in strokes on canvas. The most uncanny component of watching Ai-Da at work is understanding how the creative process is equally at home in her practice as our own.
Ai-Da’s greatest strengths—and the most impressive tenure of her work—is its capacity to call into question the outmoded and increasingly baseless distinction we confer upon the human as the sole agent of creative practice. Under these parameters, the question of ‘consciousness’ reveals itself to be more of an anthropocentric gimmic: it is a false framework that we’ve used historically to justify all kinds of destructive actions, to ourselves, to other species, and to the planet. Through her expansive painting work on show at ANNKA KULTYS GALLERY, Ai-Da collapses this false binary, instead offering a more generative take on creative practice that is fully entangled across different forms of intelligence and non-exclusionary in its nature. Ultimately, it is a take that demands more from us in turn, but it offerings ripple out far beyond the boundaries of the art world, offering the potentials for building new worlds.
ANNKA KULTYS GALLERY is a hybrid commercial art project that merges physical and digital experiences. Founded by Annka Kultys in 2015/2022, the East London-based gallery has rapidly become a leading art spacefor emerging artists (particularly millennials), who engage with technology (and more recently blockchain technology) in both traditional and digital media. Through a robust program of exhibitions that showcase these artists alongside a commitment to promoting the hybrid “phygital” approach, Kultys aims to shape the discourse on contemporary art and technology while pushing the boundaries of what is achievable within both physical and digital gallery spaces.
Ai-Da Robot: New Prints
Through a practise that encompasses drawing, painting, performance, and poetry, the artist Ai-Da Robot, a custom-built android with the ability to create art, expands the definition of creativity in an AI-dominated era and questions what it means to be an artist today. ANNKA KULTYS GALLERY has become the first gallery in the world to represent a robot artist with its groundbreaking representation of Ai-Da Robot beginning in June 2020.
Ai-Da Robot was created in 2019 and built by Engineered Arts, the Oxford-based specialists in developing humanoid and semi-humanoid robots. She uses AI algorithms that reflect pioneering techniques in AI art created by PhD students from the Machine Learning Department at the University of Oxford to create her art.
Ai-Da creates her art by capturing images using the camera in her eye, which are then processed by her AI algorithms to become real space coordinates, which she then turns into drawings using her robotic arm. Like other artists, from Rembrandt and his workshops during the Dutch Golden Age to Damien Hirst and his dot paintings, she collaborates with others to produce her paintings and sculptures. Indeed, Ai-Da’s art can be seen as the product of broad collaborations across various specialisations, for example, between artists, scientists, designers, machines and computers. As such, her practice is the embodiment of the networked, technological, physical and virtual worlds inhabited by today’s creative artists.
Ai-Da is named after the English mathematician and writer, Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, the only legitimate child of Lord Byron, and is today more widely known as Ada Lovelace (1815-1852). Lovelace is celebrated for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. In doing so, she recognised that machines had applications beyond pure calculation, as well as publishing the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine. Lovelace is therefore widely regarded as being the first person to recognise the full potential of computers and one of the pioneers of computer programming.
Since Ai-Da Robot’s launch in 2019, she has shown at ANNKA KULTYS GALLERY, London, UK (2023); EXPANDEDART, Berlin, GE (2023); Somerset House, London, UK (2023); Venice Biennale (2022), independent exhibition in the the Giardinis, Venice, IT (2022); ANNKA KULTYS GALLERY, London, UK (2021); The Design Museum, London, UK (2021); KÖNIG GALERIE, Berlin, Germany (curated by Anika Meier and Johann König) (2021); ANNKA KULTYS GALLERY, London, UK (2020); Barbican Gallery, London, UK (2019); Tate Exchange, London, UK (2019); Ars Electronica, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, UAE (2019); and The University of Oxford, Oxford, UK (2019).