Memo Akten is a London-based artist, researcher and philomath whose award-winning projects use AI to reflect ourselves and how we make sense of the world.
Selected AI artworks:
Akten’s breadth and depth of work is truly impressive, and choosing just a few works to highlight here doesn’t do justice to his portfolio. However, we’ve selected a few works that we consider the most compelling from a conceptual standpoint. We recommend checking out his site at the bottom of this page if you want to learn more.
1. Deep Meditations:
“Deep Meditations” is a meditation on life, nature, the universe and our subjective experience of it. It’s a one hour immersive film, told through the imagination of a neural network trained on everything, on life, love, art, faith, ritual, worship, god.
Akten trained a machine learning algorithm to “see” using images that represent essential concepts in human life. He downloaded his curated dataset of images from the photo-sharing website Flickr using photos tagged with these words: everything, world, universe, space, mountains, oceans, flowers, art, life, love, faith, ritual, god, etc.
Then Akten programmed the machine to “imagine” new images based on all those images— creating a new world of landscapes, objects and ideas never before seen, but based on our own experience of life. The result is a breathtaking journey through the “imagination of a machine” which has been trained on concepts core to our existence.
Deep Meditations is in different formats , including a 1 hour film presented as an immersive, meditative, multi-channel video and sound installation .
The work is also an exploration into the use of deep generative neural networks as a medium for creative expression and story telling with meaningful human control. Using bespoke tools, precise journeys are constructed in the high dimensional latent space of the neural network, following specific narrative paths to create a one hour film oscillating on the borders between abstract and representational, hyper-real and painterly
2. Learning to See:
“Learning to See” is an artificial neural network looking out onto the world, trying to make sense of what it sees, in context of what it’s seen before. This ongoing series of works uses state-of-the-art Machine Learning algorithms as a means of reflecting on ourselves and how we make sense of the world.
The picture we see in our conscious mind is not a mirror image of the outside world, but is a reconstruction based on our expectations and prior beliefs. In “Learning To See”, an artificial neural network loosely inspired by our own visual cortex, looks through cameras and tries to make sense of what it sees. Of course it can only see what it already knows. Just like us. The work is part of a broader line of inquiry about self affirming cognitive biases, our inability to see the world from others’ point of view, and the resulting social polarization.
While many artists have used Ai to create visually interesting works, Akten consistently goes deeper by using machine learning to reflect how we experience the world. Beyond being aesthetically beautiful, his works give us a reason to pause and consider our own relationship with ourselves, our minds, and our experience of reality.
3. Journey through the layers of the mind:
Akten’s video shows how neural networks try to understand what they’re seeing within the context of what they’ve seen before, as the video progressively zooms in on his face and tries to interpret features with every zoom. He writes about the poetry of the process here.
The selection of works above represent a only fraction of Akten’s deep and wide-ranging portfolio. You can view all of Memo’s most recent projects here.
Akten on using artificial intelligence:
How has AI impacted your creative practice?
COMING SOON: Artist will supply a quote here.
What excites you most about AI as an artist?
COMING SOON: Artist will supply a quote here.
What specific AI / machine learning technologies does you use?
COMING SOON: Artist will supply a quote here.
Memo Akten is an artist, researcher and philomath from Istanbul, Turkey, working with computation as medium, inspired by the intersections of science and spirituality; and collisions between nature, science, technology, ethics, ritual, tradition and religion. Combining critical and conceptual approaches with investigations into form, movement and sound; he works with computational systems and algorithms, designing behavioural abstractions and data dramatizations of natural and anthropogenic processes, to create (interactive, non-interactive or responsive) moving images; video, sound and light installations and performances.
Alongside his practice, he is currently completing a PhD at Goldsmiths University of London in artificial intelligence and expressive human-machine interaction, to enable collaborative creativity between humans and machines. Fascinated by trying to understand the world and human nature, he draws inspiration from fields such as physics, molecular & evolutionary biology, ecology, abiogenesis, neuroscience, anthropology, sociology and philosophy.
Akten received the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica in 2013 for his collaboration with Quayola, ‘Forms’. Since 2009 his works ‘Body Paint’ and ‘Gold’ have toured with the Victoria & Albert Museum’s ‘Decode’ exhibition. In 2014 his work as Marshmallow Laser Feast ‘Laser Forest’ was part of the Barbican’s ‘Digital Revolutions’ exhibition. Exhibitions and performances include the Grand Palais (Paris FR), Royal Opera House (London UK), Moscow Museum of Modern Art (Moscow RU), Holon Museum (Tel Aviv IL), EYE Film Institute (Amsterdam NL) and Lisbon Architecture Triennale (Lisbon PT).
Akten is a strong supporter of open-source software and many of his open-source tools and libraries are used globally. He is one of the core contributors to the openFrameworks project, and he gives lectures and workshops around the world. In 2007 he founded The Mega Super Awesome Visuals Company (MSA Visuals), a creative studio spanning art and technology. In 2011, with two new partners this evolved into Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF). In 2014, after a string of hugely successful, influential and large scale projects, Memo left MLF to focus on personal work, collaborations and research.
Akten’s Artist Statement
“My biggest inspiration is trying to understand the world around me. The fundamental questions that drive me are the same questions that have been asked for thousands of years. What is the nature of the universe? What is the nature of life? What is the nature of the mind? Drawing from fields such as physics, biology, abiogenesis, evolution, neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, history, and theology, I study the hidden processes that shape our world, and develop systems that abstract behaviour hoping to create unfamiliar familiarities and encourage new perceptions.
Analogous to painting a sunset on a stormy sea, I’m fuelled by the idea of studying the nuclear fusion inside the sun powering our planet, the photons scattering in the atmosphere to create a crimson sky, the fluid dynamics driving the wind and the waves crashing onto the shore. As opposed to taking inspiration directly from the observable aesthetics of what I see around me, I’m inspired by the processes and behaviour that create and shape them. And I’m inspired by our capacity to dig deeper and learn more about the poetry of nature.
Alongside my practice, I’m working towards a PhD in Artificial Intelligence – or to be more precise: Machine Learning – and expressive human-machine interaction. While the PhD is a technical one (Computer Science), I’m equally (if not more) interested in the cultural, social, ethical, legal, philosophical and religious implications of the recent and ongoing developments in AI.
These days I’m mostly thinking about machine learning algorithms as a means to reflect on ourselves and how we make sense of the world; what (and who) we choose to value and why; our own self-affirming cognitive biases and prejudices; our inability to see the world from others’ point of view and empathise with those that we disagree with; and the resulting social polarisation and gaping wounds in our societies.”
Akten’s Awards, Commissions & Residencies:
2018 Somerset House Studios & Chase Foundation, Commission, London, UK
2017 STRP Biennale, Commission, Eindhoven, NL
2016 Google Artists & Machine Intelligence, Artist in Residence, Seattle, USA
2016 Somerset House Studios, Artist in Residence
2015 Jury Selection for Simple Harmonic Motion for 16 Percussionists, Japan Media Arts Award
2015 Future Everything, Commission, Manchester, UK
2014 Blenheim Art Foundation, Commission, Oxfordshire, UK
2013 Golden Nica for Forms, Award, Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria
2013 STRP Biennale, Commission, Eindhoven, Netherlands
2012 In the Blink of an Eye: Media and Movement, National Media Museum, Commission, Bradford, UK
2008 Trash City, Commission, Glastonbury Festival, UK
Learning to See. Hansen House, Jerusalem, Israel. Acquired 2018
Body Paint, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, USA. Acquired 2018
Equilibrium, Yıldız Holding Collection, Istanbul, TR. Acquired 2017
Body Paint, Public, City of London, UK, Acquired 2016.
Simple Harmonic Motion #11 for 80 Lights, Blenheim Art Foundation, Oxfordshire, UK. Acquired 2014
Body Paint, EYE Film Institute, Amsterdam, NL. Acquired 2013
Body Paint, Webcam Piano 2.0, Public, City of Paris, FR, Acquired 2013
Akten’s Selected Exhibitions & Performances:
Deep Meditations @ Kenninji Temple, Kyoto, JP
ULTRACHUNK @ Rewire Festival, The Hague, NL
Cybernetic Consciousness, Itaú Cultural, Sao Paolo, BR
Assembly, Somerset House, London, UK
Creative Machine, Hatcham Church Gallery, London UK.
Daemons in the machine, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, RU
Fundamental Frequencies, Axiom Gallery, Tokyo, JP (Solo exhibition)
Artistes & Robots, Grand Palais, Paris, FR
Artists & Robots, Astana Contemporary Art Centre, Astana, Kazakhstan
The Other I, Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria
International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), Amsterdam, Netherlands
Sonar+D, Barcelona, Spain
Treviso Ricerca Arte, Treviso, Italy
STRP Biennale, Eindhoven, Netherlands
Quantum Entanglement 2.0, National Center for Contemporary Arts, Arsenal, Kremlin, Russia
Art of Neural Networks, Gray Area Foundation, San Fransisco, USA
Resound, Simon Center, Long Island,USA,
Pattern Recognition, V&A, London, UK (performance)
Simple Harmonic Motion for 16 Percussionists, Future Everything, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, UK (performance).
Reflection, Opera Gallery, London, UK
Monochrome, AkSanat, Istanbul, Turkey
Pattern Recognition, Sadler’s Wells presents at Platform Theatre, London, UK (performance)
Dallas Aurora Festival, Dallas, Texas, USA
Europalia, Brussels, Belgium
Quantum Entanglement, Laboratoria Gallery, Moscow, Russia
Digital Revolutions, Barbican, London, UK (as part of Marshmallow Laser Feast)
The Measures Taken, Royal Opera House, London, UK (performance)
The Measures Taken, EXIT Festival, Creteil, France (performance)
Blenheim Art Foundation, Blenheim Palace, Oxford, UK.
Nouées, La Briqueterie, Saint-Brieuc, France
New Realities, Alphaville, Barcelona, Spain
Creative Machine, St James’ Church, Goldsmiths University of London, UK
Polytechnic Museum, Moscow, Russia
Infoversum, Groningen, Netherlands
90db Festival, Rome, Italy
A Taste of London, le Cube Gallery, Paris, France
Lisbon Architecture Triennale, Lisbon, Portugal (as part of Marshmallow Laser Feast)
Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria.
Popular Science Festival, Kaluga, Russia
6th Annual Imagine Science Film Festival, Google NY, USA
Glitch festival at Rua Red, Dublin, Ireland
Royal Institute of British Architects, Manchester, UK
Plums Festival 2013, Moscow, Russia
Cube Gallery, Manchester, UK
Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dublin, Ireland
The Center for Recent Drawing, London, UK
SXSW Interactive, Austin, Austin, Texas, USA
STRP Biennale, Eindhoven, Netherlands
Node13, Frankfurt, Germany
Ottawa International Animation Festival, Ottawa, Canada
In the Blink of an Eye: Media and Movement, National Media Museum, Bradford, UK
File Festival, Rio, Brasil
File Festival, Sao Paolo, Brasil
Of this Event, I cannot foresee the end, Forman’s Smokehouse Gallery, London, UK
Decode: Digital Design Sensations, Holon Museum, Tel Aviv, Israel
Ron Arad’s Curtain Call, The Roundhouse, London, UK
Bouillant festival, Vern-Sur-Seiche, France
Digital Shoreditch festival, London, UK
Decode: Digital Design Sensations, Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow, Russia
Yota Space Festival, St Petersburg, Russia
Cube Festival, le Cube, Paris, France
Vigo Transforma Festival, Vigo, Spain
Sydney Biennale, Australia
Future Gallery, London, UK
Lovebytes Digital Arts Festival, Sheffield, UK
Phoenix Spark Festival, Leicester, UK
Mapping festival, Geneva, Switzerland
Decode: Digital Design Sensations, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK.
Tent Digital / London Design Festival, London, UK
Edinburgh Film Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland
Exhibit Festival, Venice, Italy
Berlin-open, Berlin, Germany
Clicks or Mortar? : Designing a future for cultural venues in the digital age, Newcastle, UK
My Secret Heart, Royal Festival Hall, London, UK (performance)
Trash City, Glastonbury Festival, UK
Kikk 2017 (Video). Intelligent Machines That Learn: What Do They Know ? Do They Know Things?? Let’s Find Out!
Resonate 2016 (Text). A digital god for a digital culture. Surveillance, artificial intelligence, data dramatization, poetry and God. 16th Apr 2016
Digital Utopias (Video). Disruptive Innovation, talk on production models. 20th Jan 2015
Digibury Weekender (Video). Art, science, technology and society. 18th Oct 2014
Eyeo (Video). 2013
Resonate (Video). 2013
Akten’s press and interviews:
Art in the digital age, article, January 18, 2019
Artnome, feature and interview, 16th December, 2018
HKW Machine Listening, Ultrachunk, 15th December 2018
Digital Trends, Learning to see: Gloomy Sunday, 23rd March, 2018
shazoo.ru, Learning to see: Gloomy Sunday, 22rd March, 2018
Boingboing, Learning to see: Gloomy Sunday, 21st March, 2018
CreativeApplications.Net, Learning to see: Gloomy Sunday, 20th March, 2018
fllabber.nl, Learning to see: Gloomy Sunday, 20th March, 2018
tech.onliner, Learning to see: Gloomy Sunday, 20th March, 2018
popmech.ru, Learning to see: Gloomy Sunday, 20th March, 2018
Gizmodo, Learning to see: Gloomy Sunday, 19th March, 2018
Prosthetic Knowledge, Learning to see: Gloomy Sunday, 18th March, 2018
We make money not art, Learning to see: Hello World at IDFA, 28th November, 2018
Creators Project, feature and interview, 27th June, 2017
Kadenze, feature and interview, 24th May 2016
BBC Click (@15:50), interview on Pattern Recognition, 2nd Apr 2016
Guardian, Art of Neural Networks, 28th Mar 2016
Washington Post, Art of Neural Networks, 10th Mar (Online) / 14th Mar (Print) 2016
Wired, Art of Neural Networks / All watched over… Deepdream edition, 29th Feb 2016
Wall Street Journal, Art of Neural Networks / All watched over… 28th Feb 2016
Evening Standard, Pattern Recognition, 26th Feb 2016 (Online and Print)
Creators Project, Waves 2015, 25th Feb 2016
Fastcodesign, Journey Through the Layers of the Mind, 7th July 2015
Redshark News, Journey Through the Layers of the Mind, 6th July 2015
Creators Project, Journey Through the Layers of the Mind, 6nd July 2015
Laughing Squid, Journey Through the Layers of the Mind, 6th July 2015
Motionographer, Journey Through the Layers of the Mind, 2nd Jul 2015
a-n, Simple Harmonic Motion #12 for 16 Percussionists, 28th Feb 2015
Russian National Culture TV news interview, 3rd Dec 2014, 23:00
Rooms Magazine profile, online and print, issue 15, 26th Sep 2014
Nowness, Simple Harmonic Motion #11 at Blenheim Palace, 2014
The Creators Project, Simple Harmonic Motion #11 at Blenheim Palace, 2014
Kein Magazine, Simple Harmonic Motion #11 at Blenheim Palace, 2014 (Turkish)
Guardian, Waves, 2014
Financial Times, The Measures Taken, 2014
Wired, The Measures Taken, 2014
Telegraph, The Measures Taken, 2014
Guardian, The Measures Taken, 2014
Evening Standard, The Measures Taken, 2014
Financial Times, Blaze, 2014
Telegraph, Blaze, 2014
Idealog, Semi-Permanent NZ Talk, 2013
Creators Project profile and interview on MLF, 2013
Wired interview on Just for Hits, 2013
Wired interview with Prof. Richard Dawkins on Just for Hits, 2013
Huffington Post, Just for Hits, 2013
Buzzfeed, Just for Hits, 2013
Slate, Just for Hits, 2013
Gawker, Just for Hits, 2013
Business Insider, Just for Hits, 2013
Guardian, Just for Hits, 2013
Independent, Just for Hits, 2013
BBC, Just for Hits, 2013
Metro, Just for Hits, 2013
Creators Project, Just for Hits, 2013
Huffington Post, Laser Forest, 2013
Creators Project interview on Laser Forest, 2013
Creative Applications, Laser Forest, 2013
This Is Colossal, Laser Forest, 2013
Laughing Squid, Laser Forest, 2013
Interview with Kyle McDonald, 2012
Dazed profile and interview, 2012
Wired, Forms, 2012
Creators Project interview, 2012
Digital Arts Online, Forms, 2012
Motionographer, Forms, 2012
Digitcult, Forms, 2012
Design Envy, Forms, 2012
DotMogo, Forms, 2012
Creators Project interview on Forms, 2012
Motionographer profile on MLF, 2012
Creators Project, MediaCity ScreenLab residency, 2012
Forward Council, Simple Harmonic Motion, 2012
Create Digital Motion, Simple Harmonic Motion, 2012
Alphaville, Simple Harmonic Motion, 2012
Creators Project, Simple Harmonic Motion, 2012
Creative Applications, Simple Harmonic Motion, 2011
Dazed, Meet Your Creator, 2012
Creators Project interview on Meet Your Creator, 2012
Create Digital Motion, Meet Your Creator, 2012
Creative Applications, Meet Your Creator, 2012
LISA Software and Art interview, 2011
Creators Project interview, 2011
Create Digital Motion, Sony Playstation ‘Holodeck’, 2011
Creators Project, Wombats, 2011
Creative Applications, Wombats, 2011
ABC News, Kinect Hacks, 2010
Creative Applications, Kinect Hacks, 2010
Motionographer, Gold, 2009
Creative Applications on Zoetrope for iPhone, 2009
Create Digital Motion, My Secret Heart, 2009
EyeForFilm, My Secret Heart, 2009
Guardian, My Secret Heart, 2008
Telegraph, My Secret Heart, 2008
Creative Applications, Reincarnation, 2009
Cube Festival interview on Body Paint, 2010
Creative Applications on Body Paint, 2009
Eye Magazine, Decode, 2010
NY Times, Decode, 2009
New Scientist, Decode, 2009
Dezeen, Decode, 2009
Create Digital Motion, ofxMSAPhysics, 2009
Create Digital Motion, MSA QT Player, 2008
Create Digital Motion, Amoeba Dance, 2008
Learn more about Memo Akten:
Memo Akten’s website: http://www.memo.tv
Memo Akten on Twitter: https://twitter.com/memotv
Memo Akten on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/memo_akten
Memo Akten on GitHub: https://github.com/memo
Memo Akten on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/msavisuals
Memo Akten on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/memotv
Memo Akten on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/memotv
Memo Akten on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/memotv
Memo Akten on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/memoakten/