Liverpool Biennial 2021
The Next Biennial Should Be Curated by a Machine: Experiment AI-TNB
AI web project

The Next Biennial Should be Curated by a Machine is an inquiry into the relationship between curating and Artificial Intelligence (AI). It asks how AI might offer new alien perspectives on conventional curatorial practices and curatorial knowledge. Experiment AI-TNB, the second experiment in the series, takes Liverpool Biennial 2021 edition as a case study to explore machine curation and visitor interaction with artworks already selected for the Biennial by its curator. It uses data from the biennial exhibition as its source – the photographic documentation of artworks, their titles and descriptions – and applies machine learning to generate new interpretations and connections. At its heart is OpenAI’s ‘deep learning’ model CLIP, released in 2021, which is able to compare the similarity between an image and a short text.

For the project, MetaObjects facilitated the web development and UI/UX design to navigate AI generated images and text from artworks in the biennial to allow visitors to understand how an algorithm 'thinks'.

On the project’s landing page, visitors encounter fifty eerie images – some of which look like photographs, others like drawings or collages. These are images generated by AI in response to the titles of the source artworks, using technique CLIP to guide a GAN (Generative Adversarial Network) into creating an image that ‘looks like’ a particular text. Navigating through the experiment, visitors are presented with a triptych of images and texts, with the source artwork placed in the centre, an AI-generated image on the left and a heatmap overlaid on the source image on the right. ‘Deep learning’ models are used to create new links between the visual and textual material, as well as entirely new images and texts. Every page is also a trifurcation: visitors can explore the links between the original source and generated material, word and image, art and data. As visitors navigate the project, they create their own paths through the material, each journey becoming a co-curated human-machine iteration of the Biennial saved to the project’s public repository (Co-curated Biennials).

Series curator: Joasia Krysa
Series technical concept: Leonardo Impett
Experiment machine learning concept and implementation: Eva Cetinić
Web development and design: MetaObjects and Sui

Experiment AI-TNB is funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council Towards a National Collection programme under grant AH/V015478/1
Project title: Machine Curation and Visitor Interaction in Virtual Liverpool Biennial
PI: Leonardo Impett, Durham University
Co-I: Joasia Krysa, Liverpool John Moores University
PDRA: Eva Cetinić, Durham University