Anna Ridler

Anna Ridler is a digital artist and researcher from London.  She researches datasets, AI technologies and systems of knowledge to create art.  You are probably familiar with her Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) machine learning artwork. Her digital art investigates the relationship between words, definitions and data.

Rachel C George |  Ed. Peter Traynor  | 25 February 2022

Anna Ridler (b.1985) uses technology to explore the history of natural world datasets. She creates digital art using digital technology like video and photography. Her work has been exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Centre Pompidou, HeK Basel and the Leverhulme Centre for Future Intelligence. She was the winner of the 2018-2019 DARE Art Prize. Ridler has received commissions by Salford University, Opera North, and Impakt Festival. She was listed as one of the nine pioneering artists exploring AI’s creative potential by Artnet. She was nominated for a Beazley Designs of the Year award in 2019 by the Design Museum for her work on datasets and categorisation

She graduated from Oxford University in 2007 with a BA in English Literature and Language. She also has an MA in Information Experience Design from the Royal College of Art, London. Her upcoming shows include Proof of Art, Francisco Carolinum, Linz, Austria from 10 June to September 2022 and Bias, Science Gallery Dublin, Ireland from 13th September – December 2022.

Current Event

6 Nov 2021 to 6 Nov 2022: Myriad (Tulips) (2018) is part of the @dhmdresden exhibition Machine Learning Human Dreams.

Anna Ridler, Myriad (Tulips) (2018) © Courtesy of the artist.

What’s next?

Anna Ridler, work in progress: Circadian Bloom and Final Edition (2022) © Courtesy of the artist.

Works in progress include Circadian Bloom and Final Edition. Circadian Bloom is a commission piece for Salford University Art Collection and explores non-human ways of telling the time. Circadian Bloom was inspired by Carl Linnaeus’ concept of a flower clock garden which tells the time according to the circadian rhythms of plants. Flowers in the garden bloom at the appropriate time of day. The flowers are displayed on screens and generated by real-time GAN imagery. The digital flowers are constructed using a series of algorithms.

Final Edition is an archive of the final edition of local newspapers that have closed in the USA in the last ten years. This is part of a wider body of research into missing datasets. Disparate and geographically distant local news is gathered into one collection forcing the viewer to consider the similarities between the local newspapers.  The work explores what it means to be local.

Did you know?

Anna Ridler received a Google AMI fellowship in 2019. The resulting digital film art piece called Let Me Dream Again (2019-2020) is available to watch on the Experiments with Google website. The film explores whether machine learning can recreate lost films from fragments of film.

Featured Projects

The Shell Record (2021)

Anna Ridler, The Shell Record (2021) © Courtesy of the artist.

The Shell Record (2021) is both a data set and art piece. Ridler collected shells from the foreshore of the River Thames in early 2021 and took photographs of them. Moving images of the shells were generated by using a GAN trained on the photographs.  This record of the shells from the Thames is on the blockchain forever. Shells have been in the Thames since the end of the last Ice Age. 

The work explores ideas around collecting and trade. Shells were used as currency and had an inherent value. Focusing on the shells in this way evokes their value. Shells in the Thames are rarer now than they were in the past. Preserving their images in this way is a useful record for future generations. Their digitalized form will exist forever beyond their physical form.

Anna Ridler, Laws of Ordered Form (2020) © Courtesy of the artist.

Laws of Ordered Form (2020)

This artwork is a two-part video work and a downloadable handmade dataset created by reclassifying photographic images found in Victorian and Edwardian-era encyclopedias. Ridler sought to eliminate any dataset bias demonstrated by the original classification of these photographs. In so doing, the work calls attention to how historic taxonomies and beliefs influence modern machine learning programs.

The reclassification and video film reveal how the past influences the present. If we reorder data from the past this influence diminishes. It also reveals how data has become an important part of our modern lives. Throughout this work, the artist demonstrates how data is a powerful tool and can be dangerous in the wrong hands.  

Anna Ridler, Myriad (Tulips) (2018) © Courtesy of the artist.

Myriad (Tulips) (2018)

Myriad (Tulips) (2018) is currently part of the Artificial Intelligence – Machine Learning Human Dreams exhibition at the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum in Dresden, Germany. The installation is of thousands of hand-labeled photographs of tulips. The work seeks to draw attention to the skill, labour and time that goes into constructing a dataset. It also exposes the subjective nature of datasets because the creator chooses which data is included in the set.

The work draws attention to the way humans influence machine learning. If Ridler chooses too many tulips, the machine learning algorithm creates perfect tulips that look fake. If Ridler chooses too few tulips, the machine learning algorithm produces the same tulips again and again. The process exposes the bias and the direct connection a documenter has with a dataset.

Key achievements

Anna Ridler was a European Union EMAP fellow and the winner of the 2018-2019 DARE Art Prize. She received an honorary mention in the 2019 Ars Electronica Golden Nica award for the category AI & Life Art. In 2018, she won the Adobe Award for Best Creative use of Technology, at the European Conference for Computer Vision.

Recent shows

Solo Shows

2020, Laws of Order and Form, The Photographers’ Gallery, London, UK 

2020, The Abstraction of Nature, Aksioma, Ljubljana, Slovenia 

2019, Cryptobloom, A+T Espacio de Fundación Telefónica, Mexico City, Mexico 

2019, Dreaming, Automated, Robert L. Ringel Gallery Purdue University, Indiana, USA 

2018, Traces of Things, Blitz Gallery, Valletta, Malta

Group Shows

2022, AI: More than Human, Fernán Gómez Centro Cultural, Madrid, Spain 

2021, (un)Holy Light Festival, Leuven, Belgium 

2021, Bias, Science Gallery Dublin, Ireland 

2021, Contingent Systems, Illingworth Kerr Gallery, Ontario, Canada 

2021, The New Real, online through Edinburgh University (4 March – 4 November)


2021, ‘Automated Dreaming: Using AI in a Creative Practise’, University of New South Wales, Australia (virtual) 

2021, On Art & AI, Onassis Foundation, Athens, Greece (virtual) 

2021, ‘Booms and Bubbles: Tulips, Blockchain and manias’, University of Porto, Portugal (virtual) 

2021, ‘Machine Learning and Art’, Art, Museums and Digital Cultures Internacional Conference, virtual

2021, ‘Mechanized Cacophonies: Ars Electronica Home Delivery”, Ars Electronica, virtual

2021, ‘Staying With Trouble: Randomness, Viruses & Tulips’, AIR.ITMO, virtual

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