STATE Festival connecting art and science in Berlin and Los Angeles
Berlin and Los Angeles are united by a long history of collaboration and exchange. In 2017, the two cities celebrated the 50th anniversary of their official sisterhood. Reason enough for Berlin’s STATE Festival for Open Science, Art and Society to pack their bags and set up camp in the City of Angels.Started in 2014 by physicist Christian Rauch, STATE Festival is a Berlin-based festival that explores current developments in science and technology that impact society and gives researchers, artists and open science activists an opportunity to connect and exchange.
Sparked by new friends and partners across across the Atlantic, the festival team spent much of 2017 to work on its new activities in Los Angeles. During October 2017, the prototype STATE Pop-Up Studio, a streetfront gallery space in the cultural center of downtown Los Angeles, provided the canvas for four weeks of program at the intersection of art, science and technology: exhibitions, workshops, performances, discussions and open labs.Building on STATE Festivals 2016 program “The Sentimental Machine”, and as part of STATE’s thematic series “STATE of AI”, the one month program explored the topic of artificial intelligence, its societal impacts and application in the creative and artistic realm. The Los Angeles exhibition “Age of the AI Artisans” was curated by Christian Rauch and curator Johanna Wallenborn and featured, among others, the world premiere of the first materializations of the AICAN algorithm, a computational creative system for art generation, developed by computer scientist Prof. Ahmed Elgammal at Rutgers University. Using a modified Generative Adversarial Network which had been trained on over 80 000 images of 500 years of Western art history, the AICAN algorithm was developed not to emulate existing works of art, but to produce novel images that would evoke a maximum positive emotional response.
At STATE Studio, a selection of twelve machine generated images printed on metal sheets were shown to the public for the first time. Another part of the exhibition was the work Keep that Dream Burning by Berlin-based visual artist Rainer Kohlberger, an audiovisual installation and experimental short film that is entirely based on algorithmic compositions. Trained through machine learning, the algorithm had learned to apply transformations of images independently in compliance with the aesthetic guidelines ofthe artist, resulting in flickering lights and floating electronic sounds. The live performance of the Berlin-based artist during Downtown LA Art Walk was one of the highlights of the month long event program that was visited by over 3500 Angelinos and visitors from Berlin.Another premier in Los Angeles was the launch of “Curious Minds”, a new initiative by STATE Festival aimed at featuring and further connecting the interdisciplinary creatives working within the festival’s network. The exhibition showed a first selection of portraits by photographer Veronika Natter of Berlin and Los Angeles based hybrid artists and scientists. In 2018, the project will be expanded to include further cities worldwide.