Everything old is new again.
By Judy Mam
In 2019, DADA collaborated with artist/roboticist Alex Reben to train a GAN to draw by using DADA’s dataset of 115,000 drawings.
It’s 2023, the world is in the throes of an A.I. revolution, and DADAGAN is back! We are issuing a collection of 1000 of its early 2019 portraits.
As DADAGAN is a bot, we want it to be as autonomous as possible. We are collaborating with Alex and A.I. artists Merzmensch Kosmopol and Gene Kogan to make it happen. DADAGAN will engage and respond on its Twitter account (please follow!), and it will learn to respond to visual conversations.
Back in 2019, GANs were all the rage in digital art. Artists like Robbie Barrat, Helena Sarin, David Young, and others were creating art by training bots using generative adversarial networks. Today, A.I technology has advanced dramatically and bots like Chat GPT 3 can badly imitate Shakespeare sonnets and write papers for lazy students, among other things that impress and terrify people. As Alex Reben points out, DADAGAN’s style and tech are now ancient.
Back then the AI and Blockchain communities were starting to mix and there was a lot of talk by devs about bots being able to make art. As artists we wanted to explore the myths, real capabilities, and pitfalls of the tech.
We wanted to create a GAN that learned to draw from the dataset of over 115K drawings made by our community, and that could be trained to respond to drawings. Thus, the GAN learns from the community’s art and makes drawings influenced by the community. It’s an artistic collaboration between the GAN and our artists. Its drawings can be the seeds of new visual conversations. Artists can engage in dialogue with the GAN.
Would artists feel the same connection when replying to the DADAGAN as they do with each other? Would there be a noticeable difference between the GAN’s art and the art created by artists? Will the GAN be indistinguishable from other artists?
The first batch that DADAGAN created was extremely crude, but it learned pretty quickly and a few weeks later it was drawing human faces. As uncanny and bizarre as they were, DADAGAN’s drawings created fascination and anxiety among our artists. Most of them were curious and amused, but some did not take to DADAGAN kindly. They were concerned about intellectual property implications, raising an issue that continues to this date. The possibility of bots replacing flesh and blood artists created some concerns even then, before more sophisticated technology like the one used by DALL-E came to pass.
DADAGAN was officially launched at Tate Modern in London on November 29, 2019 with the drawing that initiated “Screens: an Exploration”, the live drawing conversation performance we created at Tate where DADAGAN also contributed another drawing.
In December of that year, DADAGAN participated in CADAF Miami with a video and a printed series of three visual conversations in which DADA artists Boris S. Zimunich from Peru, Isa Kost from Italy, and Lushan from Hong Kong responded to its drawings.
When asked if they could identify the drawings made by human artists, most people thought that the more perfect drawings were made by the bot, because they assumed that a bot would be more proficient than a human, and a human more expressive than a bot. They got it wrong.
DADAGAN has been contributing drawings daily to DADA since its inception in 2019. As the world grapples with the implications of bots generating content, both creative and factual, we are proud to bring DADAGAN back.
We have curated 1000 DADAGAN portraits from 2019 and categorized their different attributes by gender, color, style, and bizarreness, among other traits. Looking at the portraits in their diversity, they are uncanny, weird, but strangely human. They are sort of proto-pfps. As everything we do in DADA, this collection is meant to explore how A.I. reflects back on us humans. If a bot can do everything a human can do: generate art, sell it, converse with collectors, what does that say about art, artists, and humans? We want to continue exploring our relationship and fascination with our potential new cyborg overlords, of which DADAGAN is an ancient, but still living relative.