The artwork «Representation (for people and those who represent them)» by Toril Johannessen is now installed at Bergen City Hall. In collaboration with BEK, Johannessen used machine learning technology as part of creating the work.
The artwork, commissioned by the City of Bergen for Bergen City Hall, consists of digitally woven textiles with computer generated images based on 900 submitted portraits of people living in Bergen . Through the image collection project «Gruppebilde Bergen», that included an open call in several languages, people were invited to submit portraits of themselves. The collected images were stored and processed in BEK’s server for machine learning, forming a data set for training the software to create hundreds of new, fictitious portraits. The work was finished in summer 2022.
One part of the artwork is a draped carpet installed in a glass vitrine by the main entrance to Bergen City Hall. The vitrine is integrated in the facade of the building, allowing the work to be viewed by the public, even outside the opening hours of the City Hall. The other part is located in two meeting rooms on the building’s top floor, where the work can be seen by City Hall employees, politicians. The City of Bergen invites the public to guided tours in the building during Kulturnatt, Friday 9 September 2022.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence have for a long time been on the radar for those who are interested in art and technology. The development and possibilities within machine learning has accelerated in later years through the use of extremely powerful computers and access to enormous data sets for training. In recent years, BEK has been involved in several extensive art projects involving machine learning. BEK has also curated a series of workshops on machine learning, as well as investing in hardware for machine learning.
In the artistic process, machine learning and artificial intelligence can be used to create video, images, text and sound. Images and sound material can, for instance, be used as a basis for deep learning, a process where the machine learns to regenerate the material in new forms without having a human participation deciding what is the right or wrong response. There’s an aesthetic potential in seeing a new form of representation unfold – a new form of art. There’s also a latent political tension to it, as this technology is heavily involved in questions of manipulating truth, surveillance, energy overconsumption in data centres and automating formerly manual jobs. BEK has an ambition to develop projects where the aesthetic use of this technology also engages with these questions.
Read more in BEK’s archive: https://bek.no/en/invitation-participate-in-the-art-project-gruppebilde-bergen-2020/
Read more on the artist’s website: https://www.toriljohannessen.no/works/representasjon/
Toril Johannessen is a visual artist based in Bergen. The impact of historical conditions and technological developments on perception and representation are recurring themes in her artistic practice. In her works, she combines historical records with her own investigations and collection of data, with an attention to how western scientific methodologies coexist with other frameworks for knowledge, values and beliefs.
Photos: Bent René Synnevåg (1, 3, 5), Toril Johannessen (2, 4).