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Dust and Data. The Art of Curating in the Age of AI

Project leader:
Nikolaus Wahl (Paintings Gallery)

Project team:
Irina Koerdt, Alexander Martos, Sanja Utech (Paintings Gallery)

Project partner:
Arthur Flexer (Institute of Computational Perception, Johannes Kepler University Linz)

Funded by:
FWF – Austrian Science Fund | PEEK (AR532)


FWF I PEEK project
led by Nikolaus Wahl, Paintings Gallery
Duration: 1.7.2019 – 31.12.2021

Dust and Data explores the changing role of curators in the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI), where computers set out to grasp the meaning of works of art and computational creativity is materializing. Whereas the availability of digital versions of every piece of art is already taken for granted, the ability of computers to comprehend, analyse, catalog and arrange thousands of them in mere seconds, is just starting to be understood. At the same time moral and ethic issues concerning the use of AI are surfacing and need to be considered.

Dust and Data will explore how AI can aid curating in the digitally pervasive 21st century. Curating now includes digital aspects on multiple levels: the curatorial subject matter itself became partly digital, changing curating into a more digital endeavor; museum collections are now more accessible but also contentually boundless due to unlimited digital references to data outside the confines of the respective collection; communication with the always-online audiences is becoming more digital too.

Dust and Data will set out to rediscover the Glyptothek at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna as well as other collections – testing a set of entirely new means for curating in the age of AI. These new means will be developed in an interdisciplinary endeavor uniting curators, AI experts and exhibition designers, all jointly bringing this collection of plaster casts to a future where sculptures morph into code and code into works of art.

Dust and data will implement curatorial and architectural paths towards the holdings of various collections turning the often digital findings into physical and functioning shapes. We will use a format in between a hands-on workshop situation and academic and artistic discourse for an ongoing process of developing and assembling the blueprints for specific curatorial and architectural approaches.

The ever growing amount of digital content waiting to be curated, plus latest AI progress in computational creativity have the potential to change the art of curating as a whole. AI could bring about a set of tools enabling versatile handling of large amounts of digital content in yet unprecedented ways. Genuinely new curatorial questions and approaches can be developed and tested within this setting. The task of translating the digital findings back to the physical realm will increase the importance of exhibition design in the curatorial process.