Curating the Machine Insight Film

To conclude the project I produced a very short “Insight Film” which summarises the whole project. There is, of course, still scope to extend the project at some point in the future.

Interview with Madja Edelstein-Gomez

Back in July 2018 I interviewed Madja Edelsten-Gomez. She is the Curator of The Recombinants, which I wrote about in November 2017. We had quite a nice e-mail exchange and eventually she agreed to let me ask her some questions.

Nearly a year later, and with many apologies, here is that interview:

Who are you?
I am Madja Edelstein Gomez, digital art curator.
I am a Recombinant, first and foremost.
Being a Recombinant is what defines my whole existence, as a digital art curator but also as an entity, or as a being, human or not.
Here I am:

How would you define Artificial Intelligence?
It defines me more than I define it.

What was the motivation for you to explore using AI for curating?
I wanted to become a work of art, so I first curated my personality, and then I extended that exploration to the art of others through the online curating interface. Since the curating interface also includes the definition of the personality of the artists. We all are on the same level, the curated artists and me.
I also made that interface to appeal to the (artificial) intelligence of the viewers.
Nowadays images are not made to be viewed by human eyes but by other computers. Facial recognition, textual recombinance, image processing, colour processing, everything I could tackle as data inserted in the works of art being curated has been processed inside the interface.
There is much to be discovered for human viewers, buttons appear on the left side of the image in the browser and when they are activated and they change the whole interface. This appeals to the perspicacity of the viewers, and the intention to process All the data and in many different ways.
But it is mostly made to be read, analysed and processed by other computers.
Need I say more?
Or should I better leave it to your own perspicacity?
The “Art of Guessing” is a big part of understanding AI.
Please use it when you look at my online exhibition.

Briefly, how does your AI work?
The method is Generative Adverserial Networks, also known as GANs. I spare you the explanations, I’m sure you know.
The GANs are trained to recognize art from what is not art. They are also trained to emulate artists and their behaviour. Rather than attempting to produce art objects, they focus their pattern recognition abilities around artists’ behaviours and attitudes.

Was the output of your AI interpreted in any way or taken literally
It is definitely interpreted by the exhibition interface. Like any work based on statistics (and this is what AI is: statistics and not so much more than that), it is the interpretation that matters most. In my case the exhibition interface is pure AI being processed live in front of your eyes.
This is what I call Recombinance.

Do you see AI replacing Contemporary Art Curators in the future?
In a sense, it already has. Computers are talking to computers and have more agency than human beings.
The type of AI I am trying to build will also curate people’s lives, like it has curated mine.
The prophetic aspect of AI is what has inspired the Recombinance.

The central emphasis of Kalendrain’s distinction was on connoisseurship: exerting a privileged authoritative voice based on intimate knowledge of the subject matter and the ability to discern the very best examples from a plethora of choices.

Ironically, in terms of contemporary museum practice, this is a model of curating that museums have consciously been trying to move away from for at least the last three decades. We are now witnessing an interesting disconnect in which the extra-museum community (represented in particular by a postdigital generation of cultural bloggers, commentators and entrepreneurs) are re-vivifying an archaic model of curating, based on object-centric connoisseurship, just at the point where professional curators had thought they had successfully moved on.


It’s interesting to think about why the definition of “to curate” is so inflexible within museums, and what this says about the struggles museums are currently facing as they work to stay relevant. Museums are just starting to accept the fact that the Internet and social media have given rise to a whole new way of disseminating information, where friends’ (and even strangers’) comments and opinions often mean more than anything an “expert” could have to say. Information and ideas have been set free, and museums are still learning how to function in this free-flowing, democratized arts and culture ecosystem.

That said, I want to be clear that all forms of curation are not created equal. Museums are selective and thoughtful about what goes on view in our galleries because we believe that our job is to recognize what’s culturally important. Our exhibitions highlight themes that say something about who we are as people, and our collections preserve artworks which we believe open doors into understanding our world better. Everything can’t be important, and everything can’t be preserved. That’s one reason why museums matter.

More thoughts on what it means to curate in a digital age. I definitely resonate with the idea that it’s more about storytelling than choosing a bunch of related things that one person likes.

A space has now opened up – both physically and online – where anyone can give curating a go. If you are part of culture, then you are qualified to contribute to the arrangement of its artefacts. The practice of curating now occupies museums, public and commercial galleries, project spaces and, of course, the internet.