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Creative Computing Institute announces ground-breaking AI collaboration with Massive Attack

Written by Cat Cooper
Published date 01 March 2019

Image: AI More Than Human Lawrence Lek 2065 (Preview) Courtesy the artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London

UAL’s Creative Computing Institute has announced a landmark AI sound project in collaboration with Massive Attack, to be unveiled as part of the unprecedented Barbican exhibition AI: More Than Human. [16 May—26 Aug 2019]

Marking the 20th anniversary of seminal 1998 album Mezzanine, Massive Attack will encode the album in strands of synthetic DNA in a spraypaint can – a nod towards founding member and visual artist Robert del Naja’s roots as the pioneer of the Bristol Graffiti scene. Each spray can contains around one million copies of Mezzanine-encoded ink. The project highlights the need to find alternative storage solutions in a data-driven world, with DNA as a real possibility to store large quantities of data in the future.

Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja is also working with Professor Mick Grierson at the Creative Computing Institute, students from UAL and Goldsmith’s College and Andrew Melchior of the Third Space Agency to create a unique piece of art that highlights the remarkable possibilities when music and technology collide. It places Mezzanine at the centre of a new AI sound composition – a co-production between Massive Attack and machine. The album will be fed into a neural network and visitors will be able to affect the resulting sound by their presence and movements, with the output returned in high definition.

Mick Grierson, Research Lead at the Creative Computing Institute, UAL:

AI is taking on the role of remix producer. We’re not replacing creative labour, but using technology to offer an extension of what’s currently possible, creating new ways of generating forms of sound. Our research is focused on how to make this kind of system professional, user-friendly and accessible. This will be game-changing for artists; but in a year’s time, we expect that anybody will be able to use this kind of technology to create their own interesting sounds, simply and in high definition.

Neil McConnon, Head of Barbican International Enterprises:

Artificial Intelligence is a key marker of the zeitgeist and we are thrilled to be exploring the subject, both as a motive for scientific progress and a stimulus for creativity. We hope that innovation in science will inspire and encourage discourse around this phenomenon and give a fresh perspective on the world in which we live. This exhibition looks at the journey to date and the potential to collaborate as we evolve together. We hope it will be an enlightening and dynamic experience, relevant to anyone invested in the future.

Opening in May 2019, AI: More Than Human is an unprecedented survey of creative and scientific developments in Artificial Intelligence, exploring the evolution of the relationship between humans and technology.

Part of Life Rewired, the Barbican’s 2019 season exploring what it means to be human when technology is changing everything, AI: More Than Human tells the rapidly developing story of AI, from its extraordinary ancient roots in Japanese Shintoism and Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage’s early experiments in computing, to AI’s major developmental leaps from the 1940s to the present day to show how an age-old dream of creating intelligence has already become today’s reality.

With digital media, immersive art installations and a chance for visitors to interact directly with exhibits to experience AI’s capabilities first-hand, this festival-style exhibition takes place all over the Centre to examine the subject from multiple, global perspectives and give visitors the tools to decide for themselves how to navigate our evolving world. It will ask the big questions: What does it mean to be human? What is consciousness? Will machines ever outsmart a human? And how can humans and machines work collaboratively?

Following its London run the exhibition will open at the Groniger Forum, Netherlands, before an international tour.


Find out more: Barbican press release

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