Is Ai-da really an artist or an artistic stunt?

Ai-da is a humanoid robot with mechanical arms and artificial intelligence being entitled as the first AI artist. But is she really?

Exhibited in St John’s College at the University of Oxford during the summer of 2019 was a collection of works by Ai-da. The exhibition, justly named Unsecured Futures was composed of paintings, sculptures, drawings, and poems. The art exhibition was a success and earned the project around 1 million pounds worth of artwork.

The humanoid’s name and traits are inspired by Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician, and the first person to write a computer program 100 years before the invention of the modern computer.

Ai-da’s portrait drawing of Ada Lovelace

Imagined by gallery director Aidan Meller, Ai-da foretells a fast approaching Brave New World of trans-human biotechnology and its potential to affect human culture, including the realm of art.

Ai-da‘s paintings are fed with a multitude of data, added to algorithms programmed by Salaheldin Al Abd and Ziad Abass, transformed into flat art by her own mechanical hands constructed by Adam Meller and finally hand-painted by Suzie Emery.

Despite the robot being a step towards highly-advanced anthropomorphous robots and despite representing a technological feat in the fields of robotics and AI, is it fair to consider her the artist?

Ai-da AI artist studio

It is reasonable to consider art the whole phenomenon of a robot producing art, as it explores and makes us wonder deeply about the relationship between creativity, humans, algorithms, and technology.

There is no doubt that the world is going through massive changes and the impact of new technologies is unprecedented for better and worse. Ai-da’s exhibition encourages to question the boundary of AI and organic life as well as pondering to what degree is technology shaped by our own image and for how long.

Is a 3D scanner connected to a printer with a human-face-sticker on it an artist?

Ai-da AI artist artpiece

The whole Unsecured Futures exhibition including Ai-da, are the artwork, and the developers, scientists, and engineers whose names are obscured in the shadow of Ai-da’s, its true artists.

The exhibition follows with a variety of screens displays in which Ai-da eerily recites AI developed poetry by rearranging the works of imprisoned writers of the 20th century such as Oscar Wilde and Fyodor Dostoevsky, the poetry explores the suffering of imprisonment as a possible consequence of the development of artificial super-intelligence.

Ai-da AI artist artwork

Unsecured Futures is complemented with pencil sketches by Alan Turing, the British pioneer of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence as well as from Karel Capek, the Czech writer who coined the term “robot”.


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