Art, Artifice & Intelligence: A UK-Japan partnership exploring art and AI

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths College
Department Name: Computing Department


Technologies of artificial intelligence are an increasing part of our everyday lives. Neural networks and deep learning find application in vast areas such as the financial markets and weather prediction. We are told that many traditional kinds of jobs may be in danger of being replaced by automation. Artificial intelligence can emulate human decision making, and software programmes can now beat chess masters. AI research in the UK and Japan are at the forefront of international advancement in the field. Programmes by London companies like DeepMind take the chess example to the next level of complexity by playing the ancient Japanese game of Go. In Japan, advanced robots that take on humanoid form have been deployed in healthcare settings such as minding older people.

While AI and automation might better human chess players or risk to replace jobs, they can be seen as a partner in dialogue with human activity. This is seen in a compelling way in the world of art. While computer programmes have been created to generate visual images and algorithmically compose music, it is in partnership with a human artist that new forms of art can emerge. If an AI algorithm becomes part of the creative palette of an artist, what kinds of new work emerge? For an artist to be able to harness these advanced technologies, how do they need to be configured? Is the human artist a partner, master, or mere operator? How do these new techniques change our aesthetic sense and challenge what might constitute a work of art or piece of music?

The Art, Artifice & Intelligence project brings together leading research labs from the UK and Japan to foster new partnerships to explore the creative potential of artificial intelligence in art and music. The Embodied Audiovisual Interaction (EAVI) unit from Goldsmiths, University of London, will lead the project in partnership with the SACRAL artificial life laboratory of the University of Tokyo and the Faculty of Design at Kyushu University. The project will facilitate exchange of academics, young researchers, and students between the UK and Japan to share knowledge and best practices in harnessing AI technologies in creative settings. The project activities will take place in a series of workshops - two in Japan and one in London - and in a 3-month residency for a young UK researcher to develop a new project in Japan. The results of the project will be presented to general audiences in public exhibition/performance events in London, and in Japan. We will work with cultural institutions such as the Barbican in London and the Yamaguchi Center for Art & Media (YCAM). The project will be a trigger for future large scale collaborations in art and AI between the UK and Japan, and bring to the public eye the rich histories, technologies, and critical perspectives that underpin our present-day fascination with artificial intelligence.

Planned Impact

The project results will have wide ranging impact on the creative sector and the general public. It will first be of interest to artists, musicians, and designers whose creative palettes mifght be extended by the AI technologies demonstrated in the project. Members of the popular press will have historical, technological, and cultural context to inform their reporting. Amongst the general public, the project will be of interest to young, technology savvy professionals who are at ease with the technologies of a digital society and who may work in the technology sector. For them to apprehend the artistic possibilities of AI will be of keen interest. Finally, to an art-going public interested in new forms of cultural production will gain access to information on the ways AI technologies become creative tools. This impact will be realised by working with cultural sector actors like YCAM and the Barbican.


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Title Totem 
Description Chris Salter's piece Totem,in collaboration with Sofian Audry, Takashi Ikegami, Alexandre Saunier and Thomas Spier, is a large-scale, dynamic installation that uses sensing and machine learning to inform its patterns, rhythm and behaviour that will give the installation a feeling of a living, breathing entity. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact The award enabled in part Japanese Co-I Ikegami's participation in the creation of the Totem piece 
Description The grant enabled our collaborators from Japan to travel to the UK. During the first trip, Japanese Co-I Takeshi Ikegami made an impactful presentation in a high profile public event at the Barbican in London, "Messy Brains, Bodies, Machines and Worlds"
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

Description Presentation, "Messy Brains, Bodies, Machines and Worlds" by Takeshi Ikegami at the Barbican 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This mini-symposium brought together a variety of experts on artificial intelligence from varying fields to consider this important moment in technological development. This panel discussion featrued Chris Salter, Sofian Audry, Takashi Ikegami, and explored the deeper context of AI. Going beyond the practicalities of this increasingly-important technology, the speakers pondered questions of machine learning and consciousness.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019