It’s always a good sign if an exhibition manages to surprise you. ARTISTES ET ROBOTS at the Grand Palais in Paris did just that. I wonder if it’s due to the combination of being intelligently curated while still being really entertaining that most visitors had a much slower pace then usually seen in art museums.

ARTISTES ET ROBOTS is the first group exhibition to fully focus on artificial imagination and it features robotic, generative and algorithmic art by some forty artists that work in the most modern technical environments. The relationship and meeting point of human creativity and artificial intelligence is something that has interested me for a while now. How much control over the finished product does an artist need? Are Michael Hansmeyer’s ASTANA COLUMNS less beautiful because they are a result of computational architecture and digital fabrication? What defines creativity and what turns it into art?

In any case, the curators decided to send us into (or out of) this exhibition with a warning: While artificial intelligence can definitely help us, it might also threaten to make itself our master by reducing humans to simple slaves to performance. Ever more sophisticated software has enabled increasingly autonomous works, an ability to generate infinite forms, and interactivity with audiences who permanently modify this game.

The exhibition is divided into three distinct parts. (1) Machines to create focuses on the age-old wish to create machines that could possibly replace human beings. Think Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or the experiments of art-visionaries Nicolas Schöffer and Nam June Paik in the 1950s. (2) The programmed work deals with the robots disappearing from our vision. Computer programs and algorithms are now used to generate an infinite amount of forms or images in real time. The authority of the artist is questioned. (3) The robot emancipates himself takes Alan Turing’s famous question “Can machines think?” as a starting point. As our lives become increasingly influenced and managed by artificial systems, the exhibited artworks use Deep Learning (advanced machine learning) to question our relationship with these exact systems.

ARTISTES ET ROBOTS is a thematic exhibition that is informative, stimulating and very much enjoyable. It manages to look at its theme from a lot of different angles, but most of all it features really great artworks. Definitely not to be missed if you’re around Paris!

 Featured Artists

Memo Akten, Miguel Chevalier, Couchot & Bret, Elias Crespin, Daft Punk, Pascal Dombis, Joan Fontcuberta, Giraud & Siboni, Michael Hansmeyer, Pascal Haudressy, Ryoji Ikeda, Raquel Kogan, Verae Molnar, Takashi Murakami, Orlan, Nam June Paik, Arcangelo Sassolino, Stelarc, Iannis Xenakis and more…

© Photos of ARTISTES ET ROBOTS by Thomas Granovsky & Aldo Paredes for RMN/Grand Palais
Additional photos and header photo by Michael Loehr