[ISEA2020] Panel: Johnny DiBlasi, Carlos Castellanos, Eunsu Kang, Fabrizio Poltronieri & Leigh Smith — Agency and Autonomy: Intersections of Artificial Intelligence and Creative Practice

Panel Statement

Keywords: Artificial intelligence, machine learning, computational arts, autonomous systems, agency, robotics

Arguably, the most important aspects underpinning artistic experimentations in the broad fields of artificial intelligence (AI) and artificial life (A-life) lie at the intersection of autonomy and agency. Autonomy is the foundational element of any living system. Defined as the property of being self-determining with no outside control over actions and internal states, autonomy refers to a system’s ability to assert its existence and to simply be. Through their interactions with their environment, autonomous systems achieve what noted biologist, neuroscientist and philosopher Francisco Varela called the “shap[ing of] a world into significance” . This notion of autonomy as being assertive, ties right into the notion of agency. Defined as the ability to take action in the world and influence others, agency is how autonomy is exercised, articulated and maintained, via capacities such as adaptability, viability and sentience. With this in mind, this panel will bring together practicing artists and researchers who will discuss their work through the lens of agency and autonomy. How are AI-based tools and methods such as machine learning/deep learning, evolutionary computing and agent-based approaches currently being utilized by artists? The panel participants will discuss their work and individual approaches to these topics, followed by discussion.

  • Johnny DiBlasi is an artist who works with computational media, data and network hardware to create large-scale, interactive installations that fuse data into the physical architecture. With these works, he explores the aesthetic possibilities of data gathered by sensors dispersed throughout the landscape and how these artistic experiences can connect users to the pulse of the landscape in which they coexist. DiBlasi is Assistant Professor of Scientific Visualization and Digital Media in the Department of Art and Visual Culture at Iowa State University. DiBlasi earned an MFA from the Photographic and Electronic Media program at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD. DiBlasi teaches studio courses in video, web design, creative coding and interactive media, and he exhibits his artworks and installations nationally and internationally.
  • Carlos Castellanos is an interdisciplinary artist and researcher with a wide array of interests such as cybernetics, ecology, embodiment, phenomenology, artificial intelligence and transdisciplinary collaboration. His work bridges science, technology, education and the arts, developing a network of creative interaction with living systems, the natural environment and emerging technologies. His artworks have been exhibited at local, national and international events such the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA), SIGGRAPH & ZERO1 San Jose. Castellanos is Assistant Professor in the School of Interactive Games and Media at Rochester Institute of Technology.
  • Eunsu Kang is a Korean media artist making interactive art installations and performances. She is also a researcher on the possibility of creative AI and an educator teaching art-making using machine learning methods. Her career started as a self-taught video artist in Seoul, Korea. Having over 100 exhibitions and constantly studying new technologies for two decades, her works have transformed into interactive and interdisciplinary art projects. She has won the Korean National Grant for Arts three times. Her works have been invited to exhibitions around the world and presented at conferences such as ACM, ICMC, ISEA, SIGGRAPH Asia and NeurIPS. A couple of years ago she left her tenured art professorship to focus on research at the intersection of art and machine learning. Most recently she taught Art and Machine Learning and Creative AI courses at the Machine Learning department of Carnegie Mellon University, USA.
  • Dr Poltronieri Fabrizio Poltronieri is an artist who explores the relationship between technology and deep-rooted philosophical concepts, such as chance. His current artwork involves Artificial Intelligence, applying machine and deep learning techniques to create and design narratives, moving images and objects. Poltronieri is an Associate Professor, member of the IOCT (Institute of Creative Technologies), and Co-Director of the Creative AI Research Group at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.
  • Leigh M. Smith is a computer scientist, post-doctoral researcher and software developer of music information retrieval (MIR), audio signal processing, artificial intelligence (AI), computer graphics, and cryptography systems. He has worked on many commercial music software projects, and is currently a senior research engineer at LANDR Audio Inc. in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where his focus is on automated mastering, music recommendation, and other music AI projects. He has previously worked with the Music Cognition Group at the Universiteit van Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Analysis/ Synthesis Group at IRCAM (Paris), and taught at several universities on music perception, cognition and MIR, with a focus on analysis and modelling of musical rhythm for interactive performance systems.

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