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These Creatives Work Together With Algorithms And Robots To Make Their Art

Dan Tepfer. (Nicolas Joubard)
Dan Tepfer. (Nicolas Joubard)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Art and artificial intelligence. How humans and machines are collaborating on paintings, music compositions and more.


Dan Tepfer, pianist, composer and coder. (@tepferdan)

Robbie Barrat, 19-year-old artist who works with artificial intelligence. (@DrBeef_)

Music And Artwork From The Hour

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Artnome: “AI Artist Robbie Barrat And Painter Ronan Barrot Collaborate On ‘Infinite Skulls’ ” — “It is early in the year, but the most compelling show for art and tech in 2019 may already be happening. AI artist and Artnome favorite Robbie Barrat has teamed up with renowned French painter Ronan Barrot for a fascinating show that lives somewhere in the margin between collaboration and confrontation.

“The L’Avant Galerie Vossen emailed Robbie last April after seeing his AI nude portraits and asked if he would be willing to fly out to Paris to work with Ronan. Robbie agreed and flew out last July to meet with Ronan, and the two have been working together ever since. The show titled ‘BARRAT/BARROT: Infinite Skulls’ opens Thursday, February 7th, and literally features an ‘infinite’ number of skulls.

“For the last two decades, it has been artist Ronan Barrot’s tradition to use the remaining paint on his palette to paint a skull each time he stops, interrupts, or finishes a painting. As it was explained to me, the skulls are like a side process of the main painting, it’s like when you clean out your motor after driving for miles and miles. Ronan now estimates that he has painted a few thousand of these, and this massive visual data set of painted skulls was perfect for AI artist Robbie Barrat to use in training his GANs (generative adversarial networks).

“GANs are comprised of two neural networks, which are essentially programs designed to think like a human brain. In our case, we can think of these neural networks as being like two people: first, a ‘generator,’ whom we will think of as an art forger, and second, as a ‘discriminator,’ whom we will think of as the art critic. Now imagine that we gave the art forger a book with 500 skulls painted by Ronan as training material that he could use to create a forgery to fool the critic. If the forger looked at only three or four of Ronan’s paintings, he may not be very good at making a forgery, and the critic would likely figure out the forgery pretty quickly. But after looking at enough of the paintings and trying over and over again, the forger may actually start producing paintings good enough to fool the critic, right? This is precisely what happens with GANs in AI art.”

WBGO: “With ‘Natural Machines,’ Pianist Dan Tepfer Brings Coding and VR Into an Improv Arena” — “Dan Tepfer is a jazz pianist whose newest project, Natural Machines, brings virtual reality and algorithmic learning into the realm of the concert hall. He appears next Tuesday at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, where his audience will join him in an immersive audiovisual saga.

“What kind of music J.S. Bach might be making today? Tepfer has long been obsessed with that composer’s famous Goldberg Variations — making it the subject of his 2011 album, Golberg Variations / Variations — and recently started thinking about how the same idea could propel a state-of-the-art musical idea.

“Tepfer, who was formally trained as an astrophysicist but self-taught as a computer programmer, writes his own code for a Yamaha Disklavier, enabling the digital player piano to react to his improvisations in real time.”

Brian Hardzinski produced this hour for broadcast.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.