The Nature Morte gallery in New Delhi opens its doors to a unique, one of kind show today. Titled ‘Gradient Descent’, the show is the country’s first Artificial Intelligence (AI) art exhibition. Curated by 64/1, a Bengaluru-based curation and research collective (founded by Raghava KK and Karthik Kalyanaraman that focuses on raising awareness on AI’s place in the realm of contemporary art), ‘Gradient Descent’ showcases the works of seven, carefully picked artists from the US, Japan, Germany, Turkey, India, UK and New Zealand. Each of these artists, equipped with a strong foundational background in artificial neural networking, has collaborated with AI to produce art. Conceptualised and planned meticulously since February, the show will run till 15 September.

“At Nature Morte, we’ve always tried to be ahead of the curve and are constantly representing artists who are way ahead of their time. These artists are continuously looking at what’s going on around them and responding to that through art," explains the gallery’s co-director, Aparajita Jain. “In present day scenario, I feel the two largest changes that will impact mankind are climate change and Artificial Intelligence. While I haven’t seen much work on climate change, I thought it was imperative for us to do a show on AI art. Both Peter [Nagy] and I felt that we had to bring conversations involving AI into the mainstream."

Apart from underlining AI’s significance, its undeniable impact and eventual ubiquitousness in human society, the show throws open a deluge of questions: Could AI possibly be the biggest art moment in 21st century? Could it completely alter the trajectory of art? And if machine becomes an expert in creating art, where does it leave human artists in the future?

“I think there are different ways of looking at it. In my view, I have a role to play as an artist, and the algorithm has a role. My role is to define what the aesthetic or the end result looks like, which means that I will choose the number of brushstrokes or the thickness of the strokes," says Tom White, who is one of the artists and a senior lecturer at the School of Design at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. “So, think of it more as content versus style – while I determine the style of the drawing, the algorithm will determine where the strokes go." In essence, it is the balanced collaboration between a human being and the machine, which is necessary.

From a series titled ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Algorithm’ by Bengaluru-based new media artist Harshit Agarwal, that exhibits images of what an AI imagines the interiors of a human anatomy to be, to a video of artificially generated, grotesquely distorted human faces (titled ‘9530 Self Portraits’) made by self-taught German artist Mario Klingemann – the exhibition provides a unique insight into the abstract, visually-striking works machines (in conjunction with human beings) are capable of producing.

Priced between $500and $30,000, the artworks (as well as their algorithms) are on sale.

To kickstart conversations around artificial intelligence, human beings and art, Nature Morte held in engaging discussion at Bikaner House on 16 August, where all the seven artists were in conversation with the curators Karthik Kalanaraman, Raghava KK, as well as the founder of Kickstarter, Perry Chen, an artist who is interested in the integration of art and technology himself.

Gradient Descent is on view at Nature Morte gallery, New Delhi from 17August-15September.

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