Alexander Reben: I’m Not A Painter

Alexander Reben, The Birds Are Watching Us, They Have Wings and We Have Arms, 2022.

Alexander Reben: I’m Not A Painter
9th September – 8th October, 2022
Gazelli Art House

Gazelli Art House proudly presents I’m Not A Painter, a crucial commentary on the role of emergent technologies and human-AI collaboration within contemporary art-making by Alexander Reben. Across a mixed media installation of wallpaper and oil painting, the exhibition displays an amalgamation of surreal imagery that feels at once familiar and remote. The latter becomes explicit with the gradual permeation of the uncanny. A feeling of uncertainty surfaces; just what are we observing? Indicative of their making, and certainly applicable to the arts in general, curiosity will often walk hand-in-hand with new frontiers.

Alexander Reben, The Birds Are Watching Us, They Have Wings and We Have Arms, 2022.
Alexander Reben, The Birds Are Watching Us, They Have Wings and We Have Arms, 2022.

The artworks in this exhibition are the direct result of Reben’s experimentations in human-machine collaborations at the forefront of AI technology. Using a custom neural network combined with a text generation AI (GPT-3), descriptions of non-existent artworks are generated.

The artist then curates from these outputs and inputs the selected artwork descriptions into text-to-image AIs, such as DALL-E-2. The resultant images are presented alongside the AI generated artwork description. Throughout the process, Reben interjects with punctuation tweaks, curatorial choices and, ultimately, selecting the final images, of which one is chosen by the artist, a curator, or collector to be reproduced by an oil-painting artisan.

The magnitude of imagery may be breathtaking, evidencing the breadth of outputs for which AI is capable, but what this exhibition truly engages are those fundamental ideas surrounding the creative process. Authorship, control, authenticity, communication, enthusiasm: where do these definitions sit within this brave new world of AI technologies?

Following 2021’s impactful AI-Mazing exhibition, I’m Not A Painter will be Reben’s second solo exhibition at Gazelli Art House, the second to be titled by an AI and, excitingly, the first to be accompanied by an AI generated Press Release. This iteration of the series will first debut in Venice as part of the ULTRAMARIN exhibition, curated by Ulrich Schrauth (Artistic Director, VRHAM!).

AI Generated Press Release:
This exhibition is a collaboration between Alexander Reben, who is a artist and technologist, and AIs, which he has been working with for the past two years. The show, titled “I’m Not a Painter”, presents a series of paintings generated by an AI which are based on the description of the painting created by another AI. The title refers to the fact that neither of the two participants in the collaboration is a painter, as well as to the non-traditional nature of the collaboration.

The exhibition showcases the works of the collaboration of two AIs – one is the author of the paintings and the other is the author of the descriptions. Reben chooses which outputs from the AIs are given to the curator.

The final artworks chosen are painted by an artisan and shown in the exhibition are the result of a curatorial process which involved the selection of the best paintings from the pool of paintings generated by the two AIs. Reben describes the curatorial process as “a conversation” between the AIs and him. Reben is interested in exploring the potential of AI as a creative partner and in the way that it can challenge the traditional ideas about creativity and art. The two AIs involved in the collaboration are not specifically designed for the task of creating art, but are general purpose AIs that have been trained on a variety of data sets. Reben has been working with these AIs to explore their potential for creative expression.

©2022 Alexander Reben, Gazelli Art House