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Anna Ridler

Anna Ridler is a London-based artist working with self-generated data sets and the creative potential of machine learning.



Anna Ridler is interested in working with collections of information or data, particularly self-generated data sets, to create new and unusual narratives in a variety of mediums, and how new technologies, such as machine learning, can be used to translate them to an audience. She is currently working with and researching the creative potential of machine learning, and how it relates to drawing and painting.

Selected AI Artworks:


Drawing Sound

Drawing with Sound is a durational performance project which turns the act of drawing into a musical instrument with the help of a machine learning program.


Traces of Things

Traces of Things explores what happens when history is remembered and re-remembered by passing through moments of the past through an artificial intelligence model trained on material from public and private Maltese archives.


Mosaic Virus

Drawing historical parallels from “tulip-mania” that swept across Europe in the 1630s to the current speculation around crypto-currencies, this video work is generated by AI. It shows a tulip blooming, in correlation with the value of bitcoin.


Myriad (Tulips)

This piece uses a training set - the information given to the algorithm from which it learns - to create a myriad of photos of tulips that were taken over the course of tulip season. Each has been categorized by hand, revealing the human aspect that sits behind machine learning.


All Her Beautiful Green Remains In Tears

Her Beautiful Green Remains In Tears replaces the original voiceover in Walt Disney's Nature's Half Acre (1951) with a voiceover generated by a neural network which has learned its existence entirely from reading the female protagonist voice in romance novels. Using image recognition/ closed captioning, it tells an entirely different story.

Anna Ridler on using Artificial Intelligence:

How important do you think it is for artists to be interrogating machine learning and artificial intelligence?

  • “Extremely important. Art can do multiple things. It can provide a way of engaging with machine learning for people who are outside academia or technology, particularly engaging with some of the moral and ethical debates around it. Without people outside the computer science community engaging with these ideas and interrogating them, they will be developed inside a bubble. Art can also suggest new ways of working with this technology. I was recently at a conference where there was a lot of discussion about how science fiction has influenced technology and I think there is the potential for art to do the same thing with machine learning. Finally, for me, in my work, machine learning is a tool, just like ink or charcoal. It does different things and offers a different history when you choose to work with it. Its importance will only increase. To ignore it just seems to be willful.”

What was the initial idea behind Drawing with Sound?

  • “I took all of the life drawings that I did over two years and scanned them. Then I broke them into grids and used something called a t-SNE to group the marks (so all of the diagonal lines together, all of the straight lines together, etc) to work out what were the marks that I most commonly made in my work. I then worked with a composer Ben Heim to think about what these marks would sound like. It’s not only about what the lines would sound like when drawn: the act of drawing was very important to the piece. Drawing is of course both a verb and a noun. It reacts to the process – a line coming from one direction will generate a different sound to a line coming from the other. A semi-circle will start a sound that will move smoothly into a full circle. Making sure that all of the sounds that make up the composite parts of shapes that I commonly draw worked together sonically was actually very difficult.”

For a piece that uses a lot of technology, Drawing with Sound really foregrounds the human body. To what degree would you say this foregrounding is a reaction against the technology in your work?

  • “I don’t think it’s a reaction to technology, it’s more a way of trying to use technology in new or perhaps more seamless ways. Things like machine learning now allow to do things that 15, 20 years ago would have been in the realm of fiction. I’m not using AI to critique AI, but rather using AI to push what drawing can be into new realms. Part of doing this is by trying to use it with the body, by making it real and tangible and not just hidden away on a screen.”

Ridler’s Background:

Ridler is an artist and researcher who lives and works in London. She has degrees from the Royal College of Art, Oxford University, University of Arts London and have shown at a variety of cultural institutions and galleries including Ars Electronica, Sheffield Documentary Festival, Leverhulme Centre for Future Intelligence, Tate Modern and the V&A. She is a recipient of the 2018 European Media Art Program and the winner of the 2018-2019 Dare Art Prize. She has been commissioned by Opera North, Live Cinema UK and Impakt Festival to create works.

Ridlers’s Selected Awards, Fellowships, and Residencies:

  • 2019 Honorary Mention Prix Ars Electronica in category “Artificial Intelligence and Life Art”

  • 2019 UAL Creative Computing Institute Fellowship

  • 2019 Residency, Tetley, Leeds

  • 2018-19 Residency, Opera North

  • 2018 Residency, Impakt Artist in Residence, EMAP/EMARE, Utrecht

  • 2018 Residency, Blitz Residency, Valetta

  • 2018 Adobe Award for Best Creative use of Technology at European Conference for Computer Vision

  • 2018 EMAP Fellow

  • 2018 DARE Art Prize

Ridler’s Selected Group and Solo Exhibitions:

Ridler’s Selected Invited Talks:

  • Machine Learning in a Creative Practise, Hek Basel, June 2019

  • Stanley meet Alexa, AI and Filmmaking, BFI, May 2019

  • AI and Creativity: what makes us human?, Barbican, May 2019Machine Learning in a Creative Practise, International Symposium on Computational Media Art, January 2019

  • The Artistic Potential of Data Sets, Post Binary Conference, Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt, November 2018

  • Using Technology Creatively, Science and Media Museum, October 2018

  • AI in Art, FACT Liverpool, October 2018

  • Datasets and Decay, V&A Museum (Digital Design Weekend), September 2018

  • Data and Training Sets in an Artistic Practise, European Conference of Computer Vision, September 2018

  • Art in an Age of Computational Creativity, Forecast Forum, HKW, May 2018

  • The Artistic Potential of Computer Vision, ZKM, April 2018

  • Deep Fake or Rendering the Truth, Impakt Festival, April 2018

  • Join the Resistance, Sheffield Documentary Festival, June 2017

  • New Forms, BFI, June 2017

  • Action Tells His Story: Language and Machine Learning, Language Games Conference, Chelsea College of Art, May 2017

Ridler’s Selected Press:

Learn more about Anna Ridler: