Oct 24 / 2018
katy micallef
Posted by: Katy Micallef

Art vs. Artificial – a world-first auction of a human-AI art part

A unique collaboration between human artist and artificial intelligence

Can art be created by anything other than human creativity? Can artificial intelligence working hand-in-hand with a human artist learn artistic concepts and produce its own original art? A unique ground-breaking collaboration has answered these questions with a resounding YES.

malta blockchain Art vs. Artificial - a world-first auction of a human-AI art part
Mark Mallia.

In a three month-long collaboration between Maltese artist Mark Mallia and Umnai’s AI system Uma (for Universal Machine Artist),  a new form of artistic expression has been created: the emergence of human-directed AI art. The human artist acts as a muse and mentor to the AI algorithms and the learning process, resulting in Uma’s creation of an original creative work.

Mark is currently teaching Uma Umnai the basics of painting and artistic expression, by going back to his style as it was two decades ago when he was working as an artist in Miami and gradually painting examples that reflect his evolution up to the present day. The AI is learning how painting style evolves, and having an artist in residence at hand, gets much more insight into the creative process itself. The first result of this collaboration is a set of paintings – the first one by Mark, “Agnes and Ingrid” and Uma’s interpretation of it – “Agnes and Ingrid Re-Imagined”. Mark says that he consciously tried to produce a work that does not easily fit with his current artistic style, going into cycles of loathing at his own painting. Interestingly, while “Agnes and Ingrid” itself does not sum up Mark’s style, Uma, being trained on Mark’s evolving style, has produced a painting that is, in Mark’s own words, ‘more true to Mark’ than his own “Agnes and Ingrid”.

Unlike some other projects in the realm of creative AI that simply use the same code and thousands of paintings to train a neural network based AI, Uma used video of each painting as it was created stroke by stroke, gaining insight into the build-up of creative expression. This was then augmented with a couple of hundred images of Mark’s paintings that define his style.“Agnes and Ingrid Re-Imagined” is signed by Uma, with the Umnai logo representing her surname, simultaneously identifying it as unique artwork produced by an AI entity.

The collaboration between Mark and Uma was conceived by Angelo Dalli, the CEO of Umnai and serial entrepreneur who strongly believes that creativity and innovation go hand-in-hand. Behind the scenes, Uma has been trained and perfected by Mauro Pirrone, Umnai’s Chief Software Architect. Uma itself exists on a couple of hundred servers on the cloud.

“The origins of Uma lie in work done by Umnai on anti-fraud systems, where we learnt about a method called Generative Adversarial Networks that uses two networks that work against each other – one that creates an example image and one that “critiques” it. During our work, we realised that if we apply a hierarchy of GANs we can add structure and achieve better results, leading to our patent pending anti-fraud technology. For Uma, we modified the technology to generate images under the supervision of a human artist. In Uma, the artist acts as a third adversary and mentor to the two GAN adversaries – leading to possibly some of the first ever truly creative art created by AI.” says Angelo Dalli.

AI is still making infant steps in creativity. The collaboration between Mark and Uma will continue – who knows what lies ahead? Read more here.

The Art vs Artificial auction that will be held during the Malta Blockchain Awards on the 31st of October.

Mark Mallia and Angelo Dalli are grateful to 111 Art Gallery for Mark Mallia’s financial support and artistic representation; Eman Pulis, for the enthusiastic support from the start; Aleksey Leonov, for photography; Michael De Giovanni, for the final processing of the physical canvas output and the rest of the Umnai Team and Olga Finkel, for legal and financial support.

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