Blurring the Boundaries between Physical and Digital: The Love for Art of Andrei Taraschuk

Explorations of AI Art — Episode 07

Beth Jochim, Director and Co-Founder at Cueva Gallery. Twitter: @_bblurred

“Since the physical and the digital worlds are not mutually exclusive, the same piece of art can inhabit them both offering unique experiences in each.” — Andrei Taraschuk

Fan account of Fra Angelico by Andrei Taraschuk

 

In a society permeated by technology what is the meaning of art and what’s its role?

When it comes to answering these questions, a person comes to my mind and is Andrei Taraschuk. He is a Russia-born, US-based coder who has created a network of art-bots [1] and shared more than 2.7 million artworks across Social Media since 2013.

Classical art in the digital era via bots: this project has reached millions of people worldwide and it is impressive. The crazy ride, defined in this way by Andrei himself, has been motivated by the fact that a certain point he has realized that art was missing in his life, and the void was unbearable. Professional success is not always the way to personal fulfillment, so Andrei found himself helping his sister - who is an artist in the States - to manage her portfolio and promote her work through an app. that he created. The app. worked, but it turned out to be not particularly useful for her. So, what to do? The idea behind the app. was innovative and had great potential, allowing artists to turn themselves into bots and share their work. But it was also scary and not supported by Social Networks. At least not at the beginning of this adventure.

The story and motivations behind Andrei’s art project are fascinating and pose several questions that concern art. I got curious about this work, but also about what an art-lover thinks of AI art and how he sees generative art positioning in the art world. So I contacted Andrei in order to get my answers and I share our interview here.

Fan account of Marc Chagall by Andrei Taraschuk

Beth Jochim: Andrei, you have been defined as “the Hacker Flooding the Internet with Art via Bots”[2]. Could you tell us why art is so important and what is the role of it in our society?

Andrei Taraschuk: Perhaps instead of focusing on the society as a whole I can focus on the importance of art on Social Media. Art is central to our experience as humans, this is how we perceive the world and our role in it. In the age of political polarization and tribalism, art can remind of our shared human experience and the fact that we have more in common than not, it is a perfect medium for the global world. By filling social media with art I am hoping to provide an alternative to the never ending flood of news, advertisements and politics. Instead of being the source of anxiety I am hoping to turn people’s [social media] feeds into sources of inspiration and beauty. Perhaps seeing a piece of art now and then will cause people to slow down and contemplate something other the day to day.

Beth J.: You have created more than 800 art bots. How was the initial reaction of people in Social Media and what has changed over time?

Andrei T.: The reaction has been mixed and changed over the years. When I released my first bot in 2013 people didn’t quite know how to react, some loved it and some found the idea of following a bot unacceptable. This was the time before social networks had a clear strategy how to deal with automated accounts, there were virtually no rules on what you could and could not do. Things changed after the 2016 US presidential election when Social Networks started taking steps to combat misinformation and manipulation on their platforms. Unfortunately, in their effort to combat malicious bots Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr blocked and often, outright deleted my art accounts. It was a frustrating and difficult time and I often thought about quitting. I am glad I stuck with it though, today more and more people are coming around to the idea of following and even interacting with Social Media bots. Twitter and Facebook are also figuring out how to deal with automated accounts and becoming more nuanced in their approach, the whole ecosystem is maturing. The regular users are also coming to the idea of art bots — over 7M art lovers are following the accounts.

Fan account of Frida Kahlo by Andrei Taraschuk

Beth J.: Based on your experience and daily interaction with art lovers, how would you see the shift towards digital art? Do you think those people will be ready to accept AI Art as a genre on its own right?

Andrei T.: In the context of Social Media all art is digital, and in that sense, the shift has already happened. When looking at a piece of art online most people don’t make the distinction between the medium, it either speaks to them or it doesn’t. This applies equally to artworks created by a human using a paintbrush as well as to those generated by GANs (AI Art). Since the physical and the digital worlds are not mutually exclusive the same piece of art can inhabit them both offering unique experiences in each.

Beth J.: What is your opinion of Generative Art? What kind of impact would you envision on those who are not familiar with it, but open to give it a try? And for our society as a whole?

Fan account of Helen Frankenthaler by Andrei Taraschuk

Andrei T.: As a tech nerd I appreciate the technical challenge of making generative art, there is something magical about extracting beauty from algorithms. Earlier this year I visited a Clark Richert’s exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver and was overwhelmed by how conceptually similar his paintings were to the to the work of today’s digital generative artists. The medium has changed but not the desire to find beauty in mathematical patterns. I don’t make the distinction between the generative art and all other mediums, it is all art to me. I guess it does not really matter how an artist chooses to express her creative impulse. The concept of computer-generated art is still new but the art world is changing fast. We already consume most of our content digitally and it is not hard to imagine that we will interact, view and appreciate art the same way.

Beth J.: Is there anything you would like to share with us?

Andrei T.: I would like to encourage your readers to engage with art in any way they can. Follow an artists on social media (humans or a bots), visit galleries and museums and make your own art! The world can certainly benefit from more art.

Fan account of Georgia O’Keeffe by Andrei Taraschuk

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” — Pablo Picasso

There are so many aspects of this conversation that I would like to highlight. First of all, the fact that bringing art to people is a way to remind and reflect on our shared human experience. Art can make us understand the world we live in and the role we have in it, bringing us back to neutral ground where being human is what really matters.

Art offers also an escape from mediocrity, political confusion and anxiety that can grip us daily, taking us back to concepts of beauty, order and inspiration in a suspended temporal dimension.

When it comes to speak about generative art and art made by Artificial Intelligence (AI), the shift to digital has already happened to some extension. People enjoy art online, but not necessarily distinguish which medium has been used to produce it. What is really important is that an artwork speaks to the eyes and the soul. It is the language of art that creates a magic and personal experience, and our ability to get in tune with it.

Finally, extracting beauty from algorithms and the desire to find beauty in mathematical patterns bring also generative art back to the cathartic function of art and its general mission: the creation of a world in which we can recognize ourselves, know and improve.

For me, this interview has been a sort of journey into art history and philosophy. Structuring the answers, writing the introduction and the conclusions, selecting pictures from our immense artistic heritage has been enriching and refreshing and brought me to base one: this is why we (should) have art in our lives.

Thank you, Andrei, for this inspirational chat!∎

Resources

[1]https://offtheeasel.com/

[2] https://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/11726/the-man-using-bots-to-share-artworks-on-social-media-andrei-taraschuk


About the author: Beth Jochim is the Creative AI Lead at Libre AI, and Director and Co-Founder at Cueva Gallery. She works at the intersection of technology and arts. She is actively involved in different activities that aim to democratize the field of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, bringing the benefits of AI/ML to a larger audience. Connect whit Beth in LinkedIn or Twitter.


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