Art and artificial intelligence. Mario Klingemann

[ leer en español ]

Visiting Espacio SOLO, in one of the exhibition rooms I discovered a magical space, softly lit and silent. With remarkable vitality, a series of portraits appears on two screens. Faces are formed and deformed, then vanish to make way for new images in a never-ending process of fusion and transformation. Between the two screens, a small cabinet houses the artist or, perhaps, an extension of himself. Mario Klingemann is the creator of Memories of Passersby I, an installation incorporating artificial intelligence (AI), which uses a complex system of neural networks to generate an endless stream of portraits, faces which have never been seen before and which, after appearing on screen, will disappear forever. Images created by a computer so that the viewer can witness an infinite action of configuration and reconfiguration.

Memories of Passersby I

Mario Klingemann’s machine, using different algorithms, paints portraits pixel by pixel. For years, the artist was training this artificial intelligence “brain”; during this machine learning phase he used thousands of works created from the 17th to 19th centuries by grand masters of European portraiture. Klingemann also transferred to the machine his penchant for surrealist art, the “convulsive beauty” described by André Breton.

Now this machine is autonomous and the astounding thing is that it produces artworks in real time, without being connected to any database or the internet. In this continuous and evolving projection of new images, it seems as if the AI brain were aiming to surprise us. Its portraits, far from leaving us indifferent, have a magnetic effect on the observer, attracting our attention yet disturbing us at the same time with its ceaseless rhythm of formation and distortion.

Computers, creative entities in themselves?

Instead of considering computers as tools to help human creators, could we view them as creative entities in themselves? Computers now play a significant role in creative processes across music, architecture, painting and science. In fact, the computer itself is already a musical instrument, a paintbrush, a canvass. In Memories of Passersby I, artificial intelligence seems to act as a creative collaborator rather than a mere tool. This has been made possible by research into how human creativity works. All of our knowledge and experience lie behind every idea.

Actually I think that creativity is an advanced form of problem solving in which reasoning, memory, comparison and learning all play a part; nowadays, these can all be replicated by computers. So what’s the missing ingredient to be a real artist? Perhaps the intention to create something, to break the rules, to produce something new, to know that what you have made makes sense… 

Photography: Oscar Rivilla

Translation: Rebekah Jane Rhodes

Music. Dr Symptosizer

Hair and Makeup: Noemí Nohales

Colaboration: Cebolla Studio

Art Director: Oscar Rivilla y Carolina Verd


Main picture and picture 2: dress by Agatha Ruiz de la Prada

Picture 3 and 4: fringed jumpsuit by Agatha Ruiz de la Prada