AI: More Than Human review
Time Out says
This show contains a letter to Alan Turing from a journalist. Referring to a chess-playing computer, the hack mentions how ‘the chief trouble is, of course, to make the matter really intelligible to the public.’ Making a fascinating and complex subject comprehensible and engaging is, sadly, precisely what this sprawling, multi-part exhibition fails to do.
Starting in the Barbican’s Curve gallery, it opens with stories of non-living things coming alive. Comic books, figurines and texts relating to the Jewish myth of the Golem and animations show how Japanese culture has a more relaxed attitude to inanimate objects gaining ‘life’ than we do.
This is followed by anything and everything relating to artificial intelligence, such as robots writing magazine articles. As a whole, it’s too much to process, yet when you find a section of interest, accessing it is really hard. For example, there’s Joy Buolamwini’s brilliant work on racial and gender bias in facial recognition technology – only you can’t actually hear the audio for the video.
Dotted around the rest of the Barbican are AI-ish installations. Most fun is teamLab’s ‘What a Loving and Beautiful World’ down in the Pit. Inside the pretty pool of swirling projections, visitors interact with the artwork by touching Chinese characters. Connecting with one, a flock of bluebirds rose from my shadow’s head, plants burst to life and a miniature firework exploded to my left. I felt like a Disney princess having an orgasm. [That sentence was written by our new algorithmic ArtReviewer 2.0 software.]
Less exciting is Es Devlin’s ‘PoemPortraits’, a machine writing poetry and then superimposing it on people’s pictures. Poetry like: ‘That family and stars wherein they stand / My cat can speak to me.’ Don’t bin the TS Eliot just yet, eh lads?
That installation kind of sums up the entire experience. Much of what’s on display fails the ‘so what?’ test. So what, if a basic robotic arm can now pour a G&T? So what, if a computer can create so-called ‘artworks’? The question here isn’t whether this stuff is better than humans, it’s why should we care.