Using the camera in her eyes. Ai-Da digitally draws her work by observing the world around her and plotting out coordinates. In her most recent series, she has turned this gaze back on herself, in a process time-honoured by artists: the portrait. Is a computer really capable of this kind of introspection? Meller wants to provoke debate about the potential of AI in the art world, asking if you can make a self-portrait with a self?
Ai-Da’s algorithm is carefully designed to not be perfectly realistic, rather developing a signature style for the artist, using expressionistic lines to create a fractured style. The kaleidoscopic forms are then hand-painted over by an artist, while Ai-Da adds final touches with mark-making. The neon and pastel-coloured, slightly off-centre images have a glitch-like aesthetic. They are reminiscent of feminist artworks that use computer imperfections to question the boundaries we place around our bodies, dividing humans and machines, males and females.
Ai-Da has been subject to her fair share of implied and explicit sexual objectification being referred to in The Times as “Brigitte Bardot in a brunette wig”. ArtNET criticised her creators for producing a “sexy fembot” earlier this year. The shattered self-portraits are slightly reticent, denying the viewer total access to her image as they stare into the fragmented forms. Are they really a critical glance at modern femininity and self-hood? Perhaps, but it’s unlikely. Ai-Da herself isn’t capable of this level of self-awareness, she simply sees the world and reproduces it.
Her portraits have polarised some, with The Telegraph even referring to them as ‘formulaic” and lacking expression. However, whether positive or negative, if people are discussing the implications of asking a computer to digitally produce their image, this is intentional. Her creators tell TIME magazine that the point of Ai-Da’s display is to question the ‘uses and abuses’ of machine learning. In our current culture of image obsession, with selfie-cams, photo retouching and cosmetic enhancements becoming incredibly prevalent, we are asked to contemplate the potential and risks of living through online personas.