I’m going to take you by surprise: even on France Culture, on the radio, I can show you a painting. Well, I’m cheating a bit, we can listen to it, but it’s still surprising for a painting. It is the famous work of Kandinsky, yellow-red-blue. We see a door surrounded by geometric shapes of many colors. What sounds could well emerge from the most yellow zone, which surrounds the door? It is possible to hear them on an interactive site.
The sounds heard by Kandinsky recreated by an AI
These are not random sounds. The initiative was launched by the Pompidou Center and it is called Play A Kandinsky. Everything is based on the working method of the painter. He felt synaesthesia: for him, colors were also sounds. For two years, this project brought together musicians and engineers to recreate the musicality that could inspire Kandinsky.
They recovered, in his studio, the records he listened to while painting. Then, they built a tailor-made algorithm, machine learning, that is to say learning. They integrated all these elements so that the AI connects the colors of the paintings to sounds.
A yellow rectangle represented, for Kandinsky, audacity, excitement, thus triggering the jazzy atmosphere based on trumpets. A deep blue circle generates the penetrating sound of an organ, it is supernatural transcendence, mourning or inner peace.
Mona Lisa in VR
There are plenty of other examples where tech comes to serve the arts.
The Louvre had set up a virtual reality experience for the Mona Lisa. As you know, the painting is very small and there are always lots of people around, so it’s complicated to watch it quietly. But there, it was a kind of immersive documentary, where you could see the Mona Lisa and all its details very closely. Even though I felt rather dubious about this idea, I thought it was great to finally be able to take the time to see this painting in this way. It wasn’t better, it was a complement.
Another example : Operation Night Watch, who produced a scan of the Night Watch, Rembrandt’s painting, of unprecedented quality. In addition to the ultra-HD camera mobilized, an AI made it possible to recompose thousands of photos of the painting. As a result, you can zoom in very far, see the brushstrokes in detail.
Tech will absolutely never be able to replace artists, because art is a human story. We would rather see the painting with our own eyes than in VR. But it just shows that tech can be used toolsit is not totally incompatible with the arts.
To listen to Brave New World on France Culture
The show AI Art: how technology is revolutionizing the artistic gesture was broadcast on Friday September 9, 2022 on France Culture.
Brave New World is François Saltiel’s program, prepared with Juliette Devaux.
- It is broadcast live every Friday at 9 p.m. on France Culture
- It is rebroadcast on Saturday at 5 p.m.
- It is available as a podcast, on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Deezer and your other favorite platforms.