Fretting over the “dying of artwork” is a practice as previous because the monochrome—simply ask Aleksandr Rodchenko. Such considerations have resurfaced of late with the brow-furrowing over AI: Will DALL·E put artists out of labor? An AI-generated image gained an artwork prize—what does it imply? “Refik Anadol: Unsupervised”—made with an AI educated on publicly out there information of MoMA’s assortment—suggests one method to such questions. Utilizing a patchwork of subtle machine-learning and rendering software program, Anadol created a multidimensional “map” of the museum’s assortment information. Then he directed a software program to “journey” via that house and generate a repeatedly evolving picture in actual time—a “hallucination” of artwork that doesn’t exist. The outcomes, unfurling on a large LED wall within the museum’s foyer, are spellbinding. Acquainted motifs from the modernist custom effloresce, hybridize, and vanish: A blossoming of Fauvist shade transforms into allover patterning; a biomechanical form attenuates into graphic registrations on a printed web page; a free grid melts into Cubist planes.
The callbacks to modernism’s previous will not be merely visible; they’re additionally structural. In a evaluation of Anicka Yi’s 2022 present at New York’s Gladstone Gallery, Colby Chamberlain notes an affinity between the machine-learning instruments the artist used to make a brand new collection of work and Surrealist processes of overpainting and grattage. With Anadol’s mission, we’d add the broader modernist tendency towards noncomposition, and efforts by artists to give up authorial management through methods akin to indeterminacy and iterative programs. There’s a not terribly huge leap from Jean Arp’s Untitled (Collage with Squares Organized In response to the Legal guidelines of Probability), 1916–17, or Ellsworth Kelly’s Spectrum Colours Organized by Probability II, 1951, to the probabilistic computation that offers rise to Anadol’s evolving composition—with the added twist that the Arp and Kelly items belong to MoMA’s assortment, thereby constituting entries in the artist’s ready-made information set, such that motivations proscribing any mark are doubly abstracted, receding into the fractal enlargement of procedural play.
Critics have complained that Anadol’s artwork didn’t allow them to “really feel” something, and, apparently uncomfortable with the machinelike methods deployed by artists from Seurat to Sturtevant, have nervous at how little the work “expresses.” However modernism was by no means about feeling in a traditional means. MoMA’s distinguished show of an artist akin to Anadol, who arrives from a context completely different from the so-called artwork world, is unquestionably a shock. But maybe it’s exactly these qualities that make the work appear so alien—its inexpressivity, its entanglement with “tech”—that deliver it most in step with the historic custom to which the museum is devoted.