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‘EXO-Stential – AI Musings on the Posthuman’

Harshit Agarwal’s Solo Exhibition Curated by Myna Mukherjee

Is AI (Artificial Intelligence) art any good? Is it truly the future of Contemporary art? Does AI re-conceive the human imagination or ready us for its end? Is AI competition or collaborator? Does AI blurr the definition of the ‘artist’? EXO-stential – AI Musings on the Posthuman, offers a deep dive and contemplation of this emergent ontology.

Emami Art opens its door to India’s first solo exhibition of AI Art featuring works by pioneering artist Harshit Agarwal and curated by Myna Mukherjee. The project has been manifested by Engendered, a transnational arts and human rights organization and is in collaboration with 64/1. The exhibition will be live at Emami Art from September 11 – 30, 2021.

Harshit Agrawal is a pioneer in the developing genre of AI Art.  He has worked with AI art since its inception in 2015; his work has been nominated twice for the top tech art prize, the Lumen, and he was the only India artist at the first global group exhibition of AI Art at a contemporary gallery in 2018.  Initial examples of AI Art mainly revelled in its ability to create hauntingly familiar yet alien forms. The field in the last 5 years has deepened considerably and Harshit’s work is a testimony to that inquiry.  In this, his first solo show, we present to you the enlarged practice and diversity of AI art with experiments in media (painting, sculpture, text, video, interactive media), aesthetic approach (conceptual, sociological, the painterly), process (varying degrees of human involvement), datasets (from European to Indian) and themes. 

One constant note sounded throughout the show will be the human experience of both loss of control over creative production when working with AI and the consequent liberation. AI Art has, after all, both continuities and ruptures with art tradition: it is on one hand part of the long 20th century endeavour of problematizing ‘Artistic Creativity’ and yet on the other is far more radical in its embrace of the machine as a co-creator of aesthetic newness.  Today when the rise of AI is one of most pressing long-term social issues we face, perhaps contemplation of these works, co-created by both the human and the machine, is one way to evade dystopian or utopian fantasies we are all prone to when we think of AI, and to imagine ourselves concretely into a realistic post-human future!

Artist Harshit Agarwal says, “By working extensively with AI algorithms and datasets, and often creating them as an essential part of my practice, I want to consciously engage with our inevitable techno-centric reality, than being simply sucked into it. Ai’s usage in art elevates it from being simply a tool for execution – it influences the outputs more heavily by its estrangement of the dataset it learns from (under the direction and instrumentation of the human artist). I find this space of engagement with the machine fascinating to work with.”

Another trajectory for this show will be an unflinching look into the state of Artificial Intelligence today and the uncomfortable yet terribly relevant issues it confronts in today’s world.

Says Myna Mukherjee, Director Engendered “Technology systems are assumed to be neutral and serve society equally, however, we know that there biases or inequities that are coded into the AI. How can AI help us stay sensitive to the relations of power that exist in the real world? How can we use it creatively in collaboration with marginal cultures towards representation and avoid appropriation? Can we use AI to transcend the limitations of gender? These are fascinating lines of inquiry within the show that we are excited to explore

“Emami Art, through its programming, is challenging art viewership. By constantly evolving with cutting edge technologies, we are positioned at the forefront of the changing face of contemporary art in India. By doing an exhibition on Artificial Intelligence, we are also tapping into the future. As the world changes and adapts to new frontiers, it becomes imperative to embrace change. I am incredibly excited to present the first of its kind exhibition in India. The works by Harshit Agrawal are not only edgy futuristic but are also philosophical and make us rethink our humanity.” Said Richa Agarwal, CEO Emami Art

About Emami Art:

Emami Art, one of the most significant art institutions in the eastern part of India, is a key space for cultural production in the region. The organisation is focused on a future-forward, complex, multi-dimensional approach and steadfast in the advocacy of emerging, mid-career and established artists as well as an engagement with contemporary and historical material. The gallery aims to create dynamic, wide-ranging registers of exhibition-making and viewing. Deeply committed to promoting a regional, national and international agenda through innovative and alternative programming, emphasis on community and socially relevant engagements, institutional partnerships and more via a multi-year vision for the future, Emami Art is resolute to be a catalyst of change, research, innovation and inclusivity. Emami Art, Kolkata Centre for Creativity 777 Anandapur off EM Bypass.  www.emamiart.com