I found this project and thought it was a really cool use of ML with a lot of potentials. In the demo, the model generates sound based on the street view, giving the user a full audio visual experience from the purely visual street map data. I thought it really utilized DL to its strength — finding patterns for massive datasets. With only a reasonably sized training set, it can be generalized to the massive street view data we have. The underlying model (if I understood/guessed correctly) is a CNN (which is frozen) that takes in the image to generate an embedding, and another CNN that is trained but discarded at inference which takes in the sound file to generate an embedding as close to the one generated by the image CNN for the paired image. The embedding for each sound file is then saved and used as a key to retrieve sound file at inference time. With more recent developments in massive language models (transformers,) we’ve seen evidence (Jukebox, Visual transformers, etc.) showing that they are more or less task agnostic. Since the author mentioned that the model sometimes lacks a full semantic understanding of the context but simply match sound files to the objects seen in the image, these multi-modal models are a promising way to further improve this model to account for more complex contexts. It might also open up some possibilities of remixing the sound files instead of simply retrieving existing sound data to further improve the user experience. This might also see some exciting uses in the gaming/simulation industry. Windows’ new flight simulator is already taking advantage of DL to generate a 3D model (mainly buildings) of the entire earth from satellite imagery, it’s only reasonable to assume that some day we’ll need audio generation to go along with the 3D asset generation for the technology to be used in more games.
Nine Eyes of Google Street View by Jon Rafman
This work is an archival and conceptual project started in 2008 by artist Jon Rafman. These images are all screenshots from Google Street View’s image database, back when it was a new initiative without the kinds of regulations that it has nowadays. At that time it was (and still somewhat is) “A massive, undiscerning machine for image-making whose purpose [was] to simply capture everything, Street View takes photographs without apparent concern for ethics or aesthetics, from a supposedly neutral point of view.” The work meditates on the implications of this kind of automation of image-making, and at this kind of scale.
I am so glad I came across this project. It really struck me going through all of these images, I just could not stop looking. As a collection for photography’s sake, they work together to really poetically capture subtle moments of life, whether it be ugly, mundane, funny or really beautiful. But as you look through these photos, it feels really eerie too. It feels like you shouldn’t be looking at a lot of these (I mean.. because we shouldn’t) and yet here they are, moments of life captured with no regard for its subject. Some of these photos made me audibly gasp, like the one of an inmate running or one showcasing what looks like a kidnapping. And then in the same collection you have a guy mooning the camera. Or a set of white laundry billowing in the sun. It’s just strange and so eerie. I really, really love it though.
I think this also holds up so well in our current times with the development of computer vision and artificial intelligence. The technology is certainly developing and yes, the ethical side is too – but definitely not enough considering many of the issues posed in Rafman’s work are still relevant today.
Here is the image collection:
A work of net art that I came across during my research was Cyberfeminism by Cornelia Sollfrank. This piece of art consisted of Sollfrank generating 200+ fake female artist profiles to submit work in an early net art competition held by a museum in Germany. With the addition of her fake profiles, the museum reported that over 2/3 of the applicants were female. Even so, the top three winners were male artists. This piece was a statement to show how art was primarily judged by the profile of the artist rather than the piece itself.
I really enjoyed this piece because first, it was a very creative way to enter art into a competition – the pieces submitted were not the art, but rather, it was the profiles submitting them. Additionally, I appreciate that the profiles were generated rather than individually created by hand. I also appreciated that the statement comes across very clearly because the results speak for themselves. Sollfrank’s concept was proven and facilitated by the judges; she did not have to say anything in order for her statement to be said.
Last year, I chose the Simpsons vs. Family Guy project (which I wrote about here) that I still maintain is the coolest freaking thing ever! But in the interest of variety and learning, of course, I found another project that I really enjoyed, which is Max Braun’s StyleGAN trained on eBoy’s database of pixel art.
Basically, he fed a bunch of images to a machine, then told the machine to make its own of them! Since I’m a sucker for all things pixel art, this really stuck out to me artistically. You can read his documentation here.
I really enjoy old Flash games, and this reminded me of them a lot! I just love the old/2000s pixel art style. If I ever get the chance to make a video game, I want it to look just like this!
Domestic Tension by Wafaa Bilal, 2007
This is a networked durational performance. The artist confined himself to a gallery space and broadcasted himself to the internet. The audience can view, chat with him, and is also given the power to control the pinball gun to shit him. Through this work, Bilal intended to highlight the violence and racism of US culture after 9/11.
This work is different from many other net arts in that it’s using ‘network’ to portray violence, disconnect, contradiction and the BAD. This work reminds me a lot about Marina Abramovic’s Rhythm 0, 1974. In both works, the artists themselves serve as the medium/net to provoke audience interaction and reveal the underlying BAD.
How Do You See the Disappeared? A Warm Database (Mariam Ghani, Chitra Ganesh, 2004)
Link | Video
This project was developed in response to the U.S. government detaining immigrants, most of whom were Muslim, following 9/11; many others were also subject to questioning. The “warm data” in the project’s title stands in opposition to the data generated from such questioning; it is “deeply personal but non-identifying”, as opposed to common forms of data categorization such as place of origin or birthday. The project is currently inaccessible, but is separated into 4 parts; I liked the 3rd and 4th parts, which was the questionnaire that collected the “warm data” and the interface for viewing such responses. I thought this project was really interesting because of how it utilized databases and data that focused on humanizing and turned its focus away from categorization, and how it can evoke an emotional response from the viewer despite the fact that there is nothing known about the person who submitted the response.
IMAGE OBJECTS by ARTIE VIERKANT
Image Objects responds to the shift in art-making practices and the definition of the work of art, where contemporary art began focusing on its online representation. It is composed of sculptural works placed in between the physical objects and the digital image in order to place emphasis on the fluid boundary between them. The digital images were created by printing image-based works on aluminum composite panels so that they would appear three-dimensional. Then, the altered digital documentation of them was circulated online, which means that each documentation is a unique work of its own.
At first, I was drawn to this artwork because of its appealing visual qualities with simple yet vibrant colors. Yet, as I got to know more about the idea behind it, I was intrigued by its focus on the online circulation of the artwork. As my artwork in the future could also be digitally circulated, it led me to consider the interactions of my artwork through the audience’s lens (ex. phone camera).
Joyride reenacts the perspective of a stolen iPhone, over five days, using images from Google Street View.
I found the project Joyride, created by Brian House, especially interesting and also humorous. The ability for the artist to be able to determine the path of a stolen phone emphasizes the dystopian implications behind pieces of advanced technology: with a smartphone at hand, anyone’s location is trackable. At the same time, the reenactment of the thief’s journey is humorous in that it seems to mock the thief in that even though they have stolen the phone, everything is still under control and surveillance. The fact that the project was done through google map street view furthers the profound control and web of information on the internet.
Natural Process is an installation that translates the Google search engine homepage to a painting, and then takes the painting back to digital media through webcam. The painting was purchased by Google.
I find it really interesting because it blurred the boundary between digital media and physical media. It also makes the Google homepage unfunctional, forcing the audiences to notice the design of the page, which is usually overlooked.
No Fun (2010)
Link to project with video, pictures, and more details
The project: A Chatroulette performance piece, where they simulated a suicide and recorded people’s reactions. This video artwork is then staged on a laptop on an inflatable mattress for people to see.
Why I found it intriguing: I found it intriguing in that I absolutely despise this project LOL. I don’t know why anyone thought this was a good idea for art. I’m not sure if they were going for a What Would You Do? style piece where they wanted to get people’s reactions to find humanity in this world, but the medium they used just makes no sense for that. The point of Chatroulette is that you’re paired with a random person anywhere in the world. You don’t know who they are, where they are, anything about them. What the hell are you supposed to do if you see someone who has committed suicide other than be traumatized and literally have no ability to do anything about it at all? You can’t call the police, you can’t help in anyway, and then all you’re left with is trauma and guilt. The fact that these people are unknowing participants to this just really rubs me the wrong way. I just find it really disturbing and for no reason at all.
I guess, if I was trying to understand, I can see the point of this artwork being that websites like Chatroulette are just overall “No Fun” and able to turn pretty messed up pretty quickly in these ways where you’re totally unable to help, but I just can’t really get behind the fact that they’d subject a bunch of people to this.
The Chatroulette project shown in class, where people’s faces were turned upside down, was so harmless and fun, whereas this one just seems somewhat unethical to me. But, I’m open to being proven wrong on that.