Working with A.I. in artistic practice raises many important questions.
How to protect the intellectual rights of artists participating in your projects?
Will participants be able to retain their moral rights?
Is A.I. copying and stealing artists' designs?
How can art and artists benefit from the use of A.I.? In fact, who will benefit from training an A.I. on images of artistic works?
What are the rules and boundaries to be set when working with A.I. in arts?
Won't the generated output emulate and plagiarize artists?
What about authorship?
Why create something that is artificial and not human?
How do I know this A.I. won’t be used to design jewellery instead of me?
These are challenging and urgent questions that people have asked in response to our projects, and more specifically our current open call 'Ornamisms'.
To reflect on these issues sparked by working with A.I. and many collaborating artists and designers, is precisely part of the aims of this research in the arts. To critically question these subjects and urge reflection through our participatory projects, talks, artistic experiments, writings, exhibitions… plays an essential role in the research. Throughout all of our endeavors, we try to figure out best practices to work with A.I. as well as other artists' works.
For example, at the start of our first project, Ornamutations (2021), we consulted lawyers specialised in A.I. and artistic practice to learn more about how to work sustainably and ethically. Together with these experts, we created guidelines and agreements for the participants and ourselves in an attempt to protect the artistic work of everyone involved. We are continuously fine-tuning this document (a current version can be found as the form to participate in Ornamisms). Another goal is to inform participants as best we can about what our projects entail. We value the participants' opinions on these issues and enter into conversations with them, see for example the final video on this page.
Furthermore, we take the intellectual rights of the participants’ works seriously. For instance, all the submitted photos are published on our website. Upon visiting the ‘Show Case #1’ tab (top), and sliding down the text box (click X on the right), you can discover the nearly 1000 images of all the participating artists’ works and read their accompanying info (when flipping the images). We included hyperlinks to the artists’ and designers’ websites and social media, since this page does not ‘merely’ show the ‘dataset’ for an artistic project, but can also function as a presentation of contemporary jewellery, and contribute to the visibility of the artists and designers involved. In our projects, we carefully think about all these matters and the potential roles we can play as researchers, artists, curators, educators… It’s a process and we are trying to do better each time.
These kinds of transformative technologies indeed provide both opportunities as well as challenges and risks, and it is essential to always consider different sides and perspectives. Today, issues concerning A.I. and art, copyright, ownership of A.I.-generated content… ignite some heated and urgent debates. And rightly so. We try to stay informed as best we can about these developments. Although some years old now, and things are moving fast in this area, we still find this booklet quite helpful when working with A.I. in artistic practice.
Artificial Intelligems emerged within the context of Anneleen Swillen's postdoctoral research in the arts on jewellery phenomena in the phygital age (PXL-MAD School of Arts and University of Hasselt, Belgium). Some of the discussions that are currently taking place within the domains of fine arts and graphic design apply equally to the domain of jewellery. Additionally, there are specific questions to be considered when working with A.I. in jewellery. To raise and reflect upon those is one of the contributions this research wishes to make to the discourse of jewellery.
Currently, Artificial Intelligems consists of a team of 5 people (founders Anneleen Swillen and Greg Scheirlinckx, and interns Esther Verstreken, Guus Vandeweerd and Senneke Van de Wygaert) engaged in jewellery design, music composition, engineering, curation, fine arts and graphic design. We are not a commercial company that is out to financially benefit from other artists' works. We are not 'the industry' either. It is not our intention to exploit artists and their works in any way. Our aim is to research, question, contribute… to contemporary developments concerning the digital age within the context of jewellery.
In our projects, we train machine learning algorithms on images of jewellery. Presentation plays a crucial role as well. This originated from Swillen's PhD on jewellery and presentation (2015 - 2019). The focus is on how to imagine (speculate and fantasize about, as well as show) jewellery, and how it is currently exhibited and portrayed in a visual culture.
One of the main goals of our projects is to explore co-creation with A.I. as well as (large groups of) artists and designers. The algorithm does not copy or steal designs since it learns from a wide variety of images (nearly 1000 images of more than 100 artists' works in our first project). To connect with people and designs as diverse as possible is one of our aims. Perhaps A.I. offers the opportunity to make these expansive co-creations possible. Whenever our projects are presented, we contextualize them, mentioning the participating artists and designers which indeed are generous to contribute to this research by sharing images of their works.
Overall, by tackling concepts that play an essential role within jewellery such as wearability, materiality and manufacturing processes, this research does not attempt to overturn age-old traditional values and skills, but rather create openings to approach jewellery from diverse, daring, perspectives, to explore how different views can co-exist and interact, to broaden understandings and push boundaries. We wonder what A.I. has to offer for the domain of jewellery, and also what the potential dangers are to be carefully considered, and, the other way around, how the domain of jewellery, with its eye for detail, sensitivity and more-than-human connections, can enrich developments in A.I. As artists/researchers, we wish to enter into playful yet critical dialogues with different visions to create knowledge, which can take on many forms and be meaningful for those who are active within, as well as beyond, the domains of art, design, fashion, jewellery… and A.I.
We are looking forward to keep challenging these fields and ourselves.
So, thank you for asking, and continuing to ask, difficult questions.
Do you want to contribute to this conversation? Share your thoughts on these matters?
Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or use the blue or yellow sticky notes which you can find top left of this page.
(writing in progress, since these issues are constantly evolving).