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Trevor Paglen tells us how selfies fuel Artificial Intelligence

December 3, 2019

I’m asking: what is an image? What are the consequences of using a thousand pictures of an apple to in face define apples for an Artificial Intelligence database? This leads to social and political consequences—what is an image of a woman, what is an image of a man—these are highly political questions.

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Magritte challenged the relationship between image and label, and this bears a different weight in 2019 than in the 1920’s. At AI NOW, I take an archeological approach to visual training sets–large archives of vernacular photography–that define human emotion, gestures, and different kinds of people. I’m looking at how this imagery is categorized, and the politics that are nested within these taxonomies. For example, there is data that categorizes the human face, by gender and by race. The categorization for gender was either zero (man) or one (woman), which feels like a kind of erasure of queer and trans communities.

Trevor Paglen
June 13, 2019

Art21 What would you say making art is about, for you?

Adams Recently I saw someone—I can’t remember who it was—who said that the essence of the creative act is determining what the question is. Once you have the question, then it’s all pretty much in the can. I believe if your list of questions is long, that shows you’re on top of this. What exactly is the job of someone who makes art? It seems to me that what art has historically, traditionally focused on are these moments of recognition and insight. By looking closely at specifics in life, you discover a wider view. And although we can’t speak with much assurance about how this is conveyed, it does seem to me that among the most important ways it’s conveyed by artists is through attention to form. The notable thing, it seems to me, about great pictures is that everything fits. There is nothing extraneous. There is nothing too much, too little, and everything within that frame relates. Nothing is isolated. The reason that becomes so moving is that the artist finally says that the form that he or she has found in that frame is analogous to form in life. The coherence within that frame points to a wider coherence in life as a whole. Why is that important? I think art is the sworn enemy of nihilism. And nihilism is a great downward tug that we all feel.

Fall 2019 Film Guide

Tune in Wednesdays (September 4, 18; October 2, 16, 30) at 12:00 p.m. ET.

Marcel Dzama with Raymond Pettibon

From the Extended Play series; Premiered September 4

From their mutual gallery in New York City, Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon collaborate on a new series of drawings. The two artists work side-by-side on large-scale drawings of cathedrals, horses, and waves, allowing their work to unfold organically. Since meeting through an event at their gallery, Pettibon and Dzama now frequently collaborate, allowing their own styles and signature imagery to influence one another.

Mirroring filmmaking collaborations during his formative years in Winnipeg, Marcel Dzama directs a new film with his friends and collaborators, Amy Sedaris and Raymond Pettibon. Dzama’s filmmaking practice typically begins on paper, with his drawings capturing visual and narrative starting points. On set, Dzama encourages open-ended collaboration and improvisation with Sedaris and Pettibon, allowing for a sense of play, spontaneity, and temporary community before he returns to his more contemplative studio practice.
This text was composed from an audio interview that has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Editor’s note—Paglen is currently investigating the development and deployment of Artificial Intelligence at AI Now in New York City. From Magritte to Facebook, Paglen is working to position how AI is a type of vernacular photography, and how these images inform the systems in society. His findings will be featured in an exhibition in the fall of 2019, at the Prada Foundation with Kate Crawford, the director of AI NOW.