/ Advancing at a Staggering Pace – Art x AI and Biotechnology (Part 2)

About the
exhibition

The present forum is an extension of the exhibition Daisuke Miyatsu: 25 years of video art - A point of transit signals from East and South East Asia, which includes Mr. Miyatsu's insightful online lecture and articles about the interaction between arts and AI in the Anthropocene. The following article is divided into two parts and extracted from his publication The Economics of Contemporary Art 2 – Art Free From Oil, AI, and Virtual Currencies.



Self-creating artworks

On October 25, 2018, an AI-generated painting entitled Portrait of Edmond Belamy (2018) was sold for USD432,500 (about JPY48 million) at Christie’s in New York, 43 times the expected selling price.

Thus far, we can see more and more AI artworks at major international exhibitions and technology expos. For example, Ian Cheng (born in the US in 1984) unveiled an AI image installation entitled 使者は完全なる領域にて分岐する (2015-2016) at the Yokohama Triennale in 2017 (August 4-November 5).

Just like the review “automatic computer game”, the creation has utilized an advanced forecasting system used for predicting weather changes and election results, taking the story in a direction that even the artist cannot imagine. The residents in the endless story (video creation) are constantly developing their ecosystem while working and interfering with one another.

Additionally, at the “Hello World - For the Post-Human Age” exhibition held at the Art Tower Mito (February 2 – May 6, 2018), Cecile B. Evans (born in 1983)’s Overflowing by (溢れだした) features fully automatic performance and creation by robots with the theme of exploring the unknown relationship between people and machines (the artist was writing a program while unveiling his creation). From the above example, it is clear that the mechanization of artworks has emerged as early as several years ago.




《エドモンド・ベラミーの肖像》,2018 年,インク,70 × 70cm © Christie's


It is worth mentioning that Obvious, comprising Paris-based artists and AI researchers, created 11 portraits using AI (including the aforementioned Edmond Belamy portrait). The artworks were generated by GAN (Generative Adversarial Networks), which was developed by allowing the generative model to compete against the discriminative model. First of all, data of 15,000 portraits from the 14th century to the 20th century were collected before the generative model generated the artwork.

Next, the discriminative model will repeatedly compare the artwork generated by the generative model with previous artworks by people until no discernible differences can be detected. Only then is the artwork completed. Note 10
For 6 months after that, the first humanoid robot artist Ai-Da’s solo exhibition Unsecured Futures was held at St John's College, University of Oxford (June 12-30, 2019).

On some level, these cases are historic achievements, but considering the current rate of technological innovation, they will no longer be exclusive within the next few years.


Biotechnology x art – Creating new possibilities

BCL was founded in 2004 by Georg Tremmel, Shiho Fukuhara, Yuki Yoshioka, and Philipp Boeing with the mission of studying the beyond science and the framework of art. (As of 2019, only Georg Tremmel and Shiho Fukuhara are still active.)

The Ghost in the Cell exhibition at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa showcased cardiomyocytes created using iPS cells Note 11, recreating Hatsune Miku's physical characteristics (such as hair and eye color) and DNA data. The exhibition attracted a great deal of attention at the time.




金沢 21 世紀美術館,「Ghost in the Cell: 細胞の中の幽霊」展,展示風景,2015 年,© 金沢 21 世紀美術館


The exhibition theme reminds us of Masamune Shirow (born in 1961)'s popular comic/anime creation Ghost in the Cell. Just like the creation that explores the problems associated with organisms having self-awareness, BCL also examines the boundary between the living and the non-living, between reality and virtuality. Note 12
According to Shiho Fukuhara: "Genes are abstract organisms; although they are substantial, they cannot be seen with the naked eye, so in a certain way they are almost like data.

On the other hand, Hatsune Miku is composed of data, and albeit scientifically not an organism, her very existence has captured the imaginations of her fans, and that is why so is do impressive. Even though the data organism is not regarded as a living being, but Hatsune Miku truly plays a role as an emerging life form that compels us to think about the future. This is how we perceive the exhibition during our creation." Note 13

While studying at the Royal College of Art, she mentioned extracting DNA from a corpse and preserving it in the tree cells, transforming it into a living memorial (Biopresence, 2004). She also founded an organization named Biopresence to materialize her thinking into an incredible accomplishment.

By storing the extracted human DNA into the tree's nucleic acid tertiary structureNote 14, the DNA of the deceased will not be detected but rather live on the tree as additional information. In other words, any data can be introduced without affecting the genes' original function. Note 15

People will attempt to preserve the memory of their loved ones in any way possible. Perhaps it is because they know that memories will fade away with time, therefore they desperately want to retain some form of proof that their beloved was once alive on the planet. Such proof has evolved from portraits into photos and from photos into videos. Now, there are even examples where their social media presence is preserved.

However, when Biopresence was published in the UK, it came under harsh criticisms, forming a stark contrast to the Biopresence exhibition in the NTT InterCommunication Center held in Tokyo the following year, where approximately 80% of the visitors agreed with the concept.

In regards to the radical difference between the UK and Japanese audiences, Shiho Fukuhara commented: "In Japan, there is a school of thinking believing that everything will become some other being after death, and it is no big deal if people are turned into trees. This is a philosophy that believes "people are part of Mother Nature". However, people in the UK believe that everything is God's creation, and death symbolized the end." Note 16




Huiyui Su‘s The Glamorous Boys of Tang (2018) exhibited in 'Daisuke Miyatsu: 25 years of video art - A point of transit signals from East and South East Asia' at ALIEN Art Centre © ALIEN Art Centre


To sum up, just like criticisms towards Dolly the cloned sheep and controversies surrounding the safety of gene substitution and recombination, when technological development exceeds the human imagination, how to overcome cultural, religious or ethical obstacles is a vital question.

On the other hand, The Eugene Studio formed by Eugene Kangawa in 2016 continues to collaborate with Tsuruoka City in Yamagata Prefecture to develop Agricultural Revolution 3.0., where smart agriculture and biotechnology are applied to discover the new potential of agriculture. The initiative not only materializes regular food production but also realizes the development of various materials and infrastructure.

For instance, in the project's biotechnology field, Spiber (headquartered in Tsuruoka) became the first company in the world to successfully mass-produce synthetic spider silk, which is 340 times stronger than steel, more stretchable than nylon, and can withstand 300°C temperature. Besides, since it is produced using microbial fermentation technology, it significantly decreases energy consumption during production, and it has outstanding recyclability.

By replacing various petrochemical manufacturing raw materials, the new material has the potential to introduce dramatic changes to society. In other words, “Agricultural Revolution 3.0” brings the vision of New Agricultural City to life by fostering an abundant natural environment and cutting-edge industry.Note 17
Rather than artwork, their business model is more like a management consulting firm. However, in continuation of Joseph Beuys (1921-1986)'s philosophy of "how we mold and shape the world in which we live; sculpture as an evolutionary process", overcoming personal limitations. Will a single event eventually become “the social sculpture” Note 18 of the 21st century?




Tzynyen Ho's Bohemian Rhapsody Project (2006) exhibited in 'Daisuke Miyatsu: 25 years of video art - A point of transit signals from East and South East Asia' at ALIEN Art Centre © ALIEN Art Centre



In pursuit of recognition or face oneself

Now, I believe the readers can appreciate the considerable impact of advances cutting-edge technology has on our society and even art.

With the popularization of digital equipment such as smartphones and social media such as Instagram, the function of photos is gradually shifting from documenting past events to conveying something that is happening right now.
Nonetheless, such a transition is not merely time and record-related problem. "It is the order of the natural world that imprints itself on the photographic emulsion and subsequently on the photographic print. This quality of transfer or trace gives to the photograph its documentary status, its undeniable veracity." The prerequisites Note 20 proposed by Rosalind Krauss Note 19 are not that far from the current status quo.

Moreover, for things that are captured, edited, and stored using smartphones with editing functions, can they be justified with a statement such as "although changes (cutting, cropping, flattening) is involved, such changes (as is with digitization) is not the same as deformation. Therefore, equivalence within the physical symbol system is lost, and accuracy becomes synonymous with identity. In other words, once the message (photo) has been edited, it loses its original authenticity." Note 21 But, can such statement be a reflection of the truth?

The definition of photo is not the only thing that has wavered, because the way we communicate has evolved from face to face and telephone into SNS, where changes are made and digitized. The fact that anyone can become a transmitted of intelligence has triggered a monumental social change represented by "Arab Spring" Note 22. However, on the other hand, the desire to feel recognized has become the goal of utilizing the media; it has even led to the ridiculous phenomenon where people pretend to be normies Note 23. Reactions such as "read" or "like" sometimes become the source of bullying or discrimination.

Still, those objecting such status quo include Japanese artist group MiND X.
Their Comfort ZONE (2018) creation features a one-legged chair in a white cubic space that responds to the visitors' actions. The interactive, multimedia artwork allows visitors to experience the increasing or decreasing colorful "likes", letting them choose whether to satisfy their needs by obtaining people's recognition or face themselves by rejecting other people's recognition.

It is a difficult challenge to cease using SNS immediately in modern society. The artwork liberates the people from the urge to feel recognized around the clock and 365 days a year; it also signifies a contrast between reality and virtuality, as well as contemplating the importance of records and memories.




MiND X,《Comfort ZONE》,2018 年,ミックスド・メデ ィア、サイズ可変 © MiND Xe



Interpretation

Note 10: Refer to the following:
AI painting was sold for about JPY48 million: Portrait of Edmond Belamy was appraised at roughly JPY1 million.
Engadget Japan (October 26, 2018)
https://japanese.engadget.com/2018/10/26/ai-4800-100/
“AI-generated painting sold for about JPY48 million, 43 times that of the appraised price”
Bijutsutecho (October 26, 2018)
https://bijutsutecho.com/magazine/news/market/18719
Browsed on June 21, 2019

Note 11: iPS cell is induced pluripotent stem cell created artificially through cell culture, which will play an important part in regenerative medicine. Compared to embryonic stem cells (ES), besides the advantage of being derived from more easily collectible cells such as skin or blood, iPS also offers the benefit of low immune rejection (by the patient's cells). The iPSC technology was pioneered by Professor Shinya Yamanaka from Kyoto University in August 2006, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2012.

Note 12: Referred to and partly quoted the following:
Tamaki Sugihara: 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa Ghost in the Cell Exhibition, Endowing Hatsune Miku with DNA Will Blur the Definition of All Boundaries. MIKKI (December 14, 2015)
http://mikiki.tokyo.jp/articles/-/9319
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa The Contemporary – 3: Ghost in the Cell Exhibition
https://www.kanazawa21.jp/data_list.php?g=45&d=1726
Browsed on June 21, 2019

Note 13: 2017 WIRED Audi INNOVATION AWARD
Shiho Fukuhara – Simply combining “biotechnology” and “art” will not work
WIRED (May 19, 2017), referred to and quoted part of the content
https://wired.jp/waia/2017/05_shiho-fukuhara/
Browsed on June 21, 2019

Note 14: Nucleic acid tertiary structure is a set of 3 nucleotides (organic molecules consisting of a nucleoside and a phosphate; nucleic acid consists of numerous polynucleotides). The sequence of the 3 nucleobases becomes genetic codes matching to one amino acid.
Nucleoside: Chemical compound consisting of a purine base or pyrimidine base combined with sugar. Adenosine, guanosine, and uridine are the components of nucleic acid.
・Nucleic acid: Polymer consisting of base, sugar, and phosphate is usually found in the nucleus of living organisms. Sugar is divided into deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA).
-Polynucleotides: High linear polymer of nucleotide. Nucleic acid exists naturally, and synthetic nucleic acids are used for nucleic acid basic research.

Note 15: Embedding the DNA of the deceased into the tree to create a living memorial. WIRED
Quoted on November 8, 2005
https://wired.jp/2005/11/08/故人の dna を含む「生きた墓標」に/
Browsed on June 21, 2019

Note 16: Tamaki Sugihara: For or against? BCL uses genes to showcase the cell of Hatsune Miku. CINRA.NET
Quoted on October 9, 2015
https://www.cinra.net/interview/201510-bcl
Browsed on June 21, 2019

Note 17: Please refer to my publications to obtain more information about " THE EUGENE Studio " and "Agricultural Revolution 3.0"Daisuke Miyatsu, The Age of Art x Technology – Revolutionary Changes in a Society Brought About By The Creative Business, Kobunsha, P150-170

Note 18: Social Sculpture is advocated by the German artist Joseph Beuys. He believes that everyone in the world is an artist, and our actions in proactively changing society are considered art activities.

Note 19: Rosalind E. Krauss 's Originality and Repetition - Rosalind E. Krauss Art Review Collection, translated by Nobuyuki Konishi, P.171

Note 20: Rosalind E. Krauss (born in 1940) is an American postmodern art critic who graduated from Harvard University with a Ph.D. in 1969. Influenced by his teacher at Harvard Clement Greenberg (1909-1994, an American contemporary art critic) and friend Michael Fried (born in 1939, American art critic), she began pursuing a career as an art critic. In 1976, she and Annette Michelson co-published the art magazine October. She made use of Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914)'s theory in semiotics consisting of similarity (icon), sign (symbol), and indicator (index) to depict and draw "similarity (icon), photos, and indicator (index), which is presented in a physical form for some reason" (because the photo itself is an impression created using light-sensitive chemicals and photo paper).

Note 21: Roland Barthes Rhetoric Of The Image, translated by Shigehiko Hasumi and Kico Sugimoto, Asahi Press, P.18

Note 22: Arab Spring: After the Jasmine Revolution, a civil resistance movement against the Tunisian regime erupted in Tunisia in 2010, the anti-dictatorship campaign spread to the Arab world including Libya and Egypt. SNS such as Facebook and Twitter played an instrumental role in identifying and participating in the revolutionary movement.

Note 23: Normie: Internet slang referring to someone who is fulfilled in real life. Compared to the virtual (imaginative) world, their actual (real) world is far more fulfilling.

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