Robert Clarke’s Fellowship with BLAST Fest

Robert Clarke, from cohort 3, writes about his BLAST Media Fellowship.

Robert Clarke writes about being a Media Fellow with BLAST Fest:

Since April, I have been a Media Fellow with BLAST Fest, exploring the intersection between the sciences and art, specifically looking at artificial intelligence (AI) and visual art.

Over the past year, AI has progressed at a rapid pace – almost every other week there’s a new state-of-the-art model, capable of doing what was previously impossible. This has been really interesting to see in the art space also, with text-to-image models that can generate images and animations from a string of words and even emojis. As part of the BLAST Fellowship, we were encouraged to explore our own line of curiosity and engaged in a number of sessions with guest speakers and trips to various places.

The Fellowship ended with a showcase at the ThinkTank in Birmingham, where I, along with Dr Sanjay Sharma from the University of Warwick, talked about the pros and cons of these new forms of generative algorithms. While these technologies are heralded for being able to democratise the creation of art, produce realistic images of unimaginable scenes and generate media efficiently for entertainment purposes, their realism and dataset biases present a real possibility of harm – which is a really important conversation to have.

As part of the event, I presented some videos which I created using one of the popular image generation models and also gave an interactive demonstration of various models for the audience, showing them how they too could use these tools to make their own artwork. Similar to the conversations within the art space currently, this resulted in a thought provoking debate with audience members over what constitutes ‘art’ and what this will mean for the future of traditional methods. Overall, the BLAST Fellowship was extremely insightful. I have learned a lot about how to communicate with the public and have really enjoyed being able to share knowledge of AI in a fun and engaging way.

Photos by Michael Ellis

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