Machine Imagined Artworks (2013)

Taking another look at the Tate Data, the most interesting categories, for me, are the more subjective ones, the categories which feel like they’re furthest along the ‘I need a human to make this judgement’ axis. This dataset goes beyond simple ‘fact based’ descriptions, which means it contains a whole lot more humanity than most ‘big data’.


We can imagine machines which spot the items within a representational work (look at Google Goggles, for example) but algorithms which spot the ‘emotions and human qualities’ of an artwork are more difficult to comprehend. These categories capture complex, uniquely human judgements which occupy a space which we hold outside of simple visual perception. In fact I think I’d find a machine which could accurately classify an artwork in this way a little sinister…

The relationships between these categories and the works are metaphorical in nature, allusions to whole classes of human experience that cannot be derived from simply ‘looking at’ the artwork. The exciting part of the Tate data is really the ‘humanity’ it contains, something absolutely essential when we’re talking about art – after all, culture cannot exist without culturally informed entities experiencing it.

It struck me that these are not only representations of existing artworks, but actually the vocabulary and structure required to describe new, as yet un-made, artworks.


So, inspired by an online conversation with Bjørn Magnhildøen, I built a machine which explores this idea space, and suggests new artworks. It can be used as a source of inspiration for artists or just a tool to investigate into an unknown aesthetic domain. By using a small subsection of the Tate categories as starting point, new descriptions are created. There are 88,577,208,667,721,179,117,706,090,119,168 possible artworks in waiting to be described.

Click Here to explore this world of machine imagined art.

It makes me wonder whether the whole process, from generating an idea through to the actual production of the artwork could perhaps be automated. Maybe a hook into the Thingiverse API and a 3d printer? In the meantime, please enjoy exploring an area of idea space, created purely by a machine.

UPDATE 27/04/15

MIA is now on twitter:

Trackback URL for this post:

4 Responses to “Machine Imagined Artworks (2013)”

  1. Anders Sandberg
    November 13th, 2013 | 1:14 pm

    I just got reminded of Jonas Lund’s exhibition “The Fear Of Missing Out” (2013), which seems to be an implementation of something similar.

    “The works in the show are the result of a computer algorithm written by Lund. By analysing and categorizing a wide range of artworks, by the most successful contemporary artists, a set of instructions were generated explaining, step by step, how to make the most successful works of art. The artist then simply made the work following the instructions.”

  2. November 14th, 2013 | 2:31 am

    There is something profound about this. I’m not sure what it is yet.

  3. November 14th, 2013 | 2:33 pm

    [...] how is this more than just random #ds106 amusement? I think the generator works a little like this example about machine imagined artworks5. So there’s a chunk of human constructed meaning from machine assembled pieces. It [...]

  4. November 15th, 2013 | 11:08 pm

    [...] Head over to Shardcore’s website to learn more about the project. [...]

Leave a reply