Anna ridler, still/detail from untitled work, 2020

New AI commission announced with artist Anna Ridler

August 2020

Following the Peer to Peer project curated by Lindsay Taylor in 2019, we are pleased to be commissioning artist Anna Ridler to make new work that uses artificial intelligence to explore the natural and human-made worlds around us.

The project will use crowdsourced images, collected by people in Salford, the North West, the UK and beyond, to assemble two visual catalogues: one of found natural specimens (leaves, weeds, plants, branches, flowers etc) and another of found objects (items of rubbish, cans, bottles, crisp packets, discarded objects etc) from our local environments.

Anna will then use the images to ‘train’ an artificial intelligence programme to understand the data, and in turn generate new images of its own. The images will contribute to a new original artwork that will be exhibited in Salford in 2021, before entering the University of Salford Art Collection.

The more images the better, so we invite you to get your cameras ready and:
– Enjoy a local walk/explore nature nearby
– Be part of an exciting new artwork
– Contribute to innovative tech research

For details on how to contribute see here.
For further details of the artist see here.

“This project continues my ongoing research tracing the lineage of natural history with the use of technology. Work and authorship are as contentious in machine learning (a type of AI) as historian Elaine Ayers notes they are in both botany and workshop painting.
While algorithms are typically associated with individual or institutional authors, I am interested in the labour and network of human decision making that goes into artificial intelligence and how to draw this out, both in the process and the end result. While the work was originally designed to be something different – single authored – the situation that we find ourselves in now with COVID makes it impossible to travel and document the environment in Salford to create a training set. Training sets are reflections of their contexts. Because they are always the products of people – because people are the ones making them – crowd-sourcing the dataset allows a way of reflecting back on ourselves and the world that we find ourselves in right now.”

– Anna Ridler

“Ridler’s project will capture an important experience of our changing environments during the Covid 19 pandemic. Perhaps you have been taking more local walks and noticing nature more closely, which is flourishing in areas due to drops in traffic pollution, or trying to grow your own plants and vegetables in gardens or windowsills. Conversely, perhaps now restrictions are beginning to lift – will our public spaces return to the same levels of littering and pollution?
Anna’s approach also importantly focuses on the actual processes and labour behind technology, rather than just speculating on fantastical future tech scenarios. This comes at an important time as we rapidly increase our use of technology on a daily basis, for both work and play.
The work will be a challenging and valuable addition to the collection – and the first AI based work that we’ve acquired”

-Stephanie Fletcher, Assistant Curator, University of Salford Art Collection