Memories of Passersby I

Mario Klingemann’s “Memories of Passersby I” generates portraits using neural networks. But that’s not what makes it art.

Munich-based artist Mario Klingemann has been making art using algorithms for 25 years, posting his experiments online and showing the final results in galleries. He’s a leading artist working with AI today–but next month, Klingemann’s groundbreaking work will breach the commercial fine art establishment when one of his pieces goes up for auction at Sotheby’s for an estimated $38,500 to $51,000. Sotheby’s interest in his work points to the increasing cultural relevance of artwork that uses algorithms–and this type of art’s viability in the mainstream art market.

Memories of Passersby I is a computer system hidden inside of an antique-looking piece of furniture, which looks like a cross between a midcentury modern cabinet and an old-fashioned radio. The system is connected with wires to two large screens, which display human faces that the algorithm dreams up in real time on a constant loop. It’s almost entirely self-sufficient: Once you plug it in, the machine can start processing images and generating new portraits, as long as it’s on.

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