Press room

AI: More Than Human

3d rendering of white humanoid in glass cage


Opening in May 2019, the Barbican presents a major new exhibition: AI: More Than Human – an unprecedented survey of creative and scientific developments in Artificial Intelligence, exploring the evolution of the relationship between humans and technology.

Part of Life Rewired, the Barbican’s 2019 season exploring what it means to be human when technology is changing everything, AI: More Than Human tells the rapidly developing story of AI, from its extraordinary ancient roots in Japanese Shintoism and Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage’s early experiments in computing, to AI’s major developmental leaps from the 1940s to the present day to show how an age-old dream of creating intelligence has already become today’s reality. Told through some of the most prominent and cutting-edge research projects, from Deepmind, Jigsaw, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Computer Science Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Sony Computer Science Laboratories and Hiroshi Ishiguro, who famously created a robot version of himself, alongside the artists who are embracing its new possibilities in their work.

The exhibition presents new commissions and projects by, artists, researchers and scientists Joy Buolamwini, Stephanie Dinkins, Mario Klingemann, Kode 9, Lawrence Lek, Massive Attack, Lauren McCarthy, Yoichi Ochiai, Neri Oxman, Anna Ridler, Chris Salter, Sam Twidale and Marija Avramovic, and Universal Everything.

With digital media, immersive art installations and a chance for visitors to interact directly with exhibits to experience AI’s capabilities first-hand, this festival-style exhibition takes place all over the Centre to examine the subject from multiple, global perspectives and give visitors the tools to decide for themselves how to navigate our evolving world. It will ask the big questions: What does it mean to be human? What is consciousness? Will machines ever outsmart a human? And how can humans and machines work collaboratively?

At the heart of the main exhibition in The Curve is the Data Space. This responsive environment invites visitors to experience how AI works through a series of digital interactives that examine its capability to improve commerce, change society and enhance our personal lives, looking at AI’s real-life application and addressing  important ethical issues such as bias, control, truth and privacy, through projects by leading figures including scientist and activist Joy Buolamwini.

Artist and electronic musician Kode9 presents a newly commissioned sound installation on the golem. A mythical creature from Jewish folklore, the golem has influenced art, literature and film for centuries from Frankenstein to Blade Runner. Kode9’s audio essay adapts and samples from many of these stories of unruly artificial entities to create an eerie starting point to the exhibition.

For the first time in the UK, Japanese media artist Yoichi Ochiai presents projects from his research lab, Digital Nature, including a half-real, half-artificial butterfly.

Architect, designer and MIT Professor Neri Oxman and members of The Mediated Matter Group present Vespers, a collection of masks exploring what it means to design (with) life. From the relic of the death mask to a contemporary living device, the collection embarks on a journey that begins with an ancient typology and culminates with a novel technology for the design and digital fabrication of adaptive and responsive interfaces. Stephanie Dinkins’s Not The Only One continues her ongoing dialogue around AI and race, gender and aging using dialogue between three generations of black women to create an AI with whom visitors can hold their own conversation. Mario Klingemann’s piece Circuit Training invites visitors to take part in teaching a neural network to create a piece of art. Visitors will first help create the data set by allowing the AI to capture their image, then teach it to select the most interesting imagery. The final projection will be a constantly changing piece of live art. Anna Ridler looks at the politics and process of using large datasets to produce a piece of art, by photographing and tagging thousands of tulips.

Sam Twidale and Marija Avramovic explore notions of animism and techno-animism through the lens of Japanese Shinto beliefs, and Lauren McCarthy presents her experiment to become a human smart home intelligence system.

A series of new commissions will run across the Barbican’s Level G spaces throughout the exhibition. Digital art and design collective Universal Everything will create a new installation, where visitors can interact with an AI version of themselves and Lawrence Lek’s site-specific open-world video game 2065 invites visitors to play the role of an AI to imagine what life might be like in future years.

Chris Salter’s piece Phos (Greek for ‘light’) is a large-scale, dynamic installation that uses sensing and machine learning to inform its patterns, rhythm and behavior.

Neil McConnon, Head of Barbican International Enterprises, said:

Artificial Intelligence is a key marker of the zeitgeist and we are thrilled to be exploring the subject, both as a motive for scientific progress and a stimulus for creativity. We hope that innovation in science will inspire and encourage discourse around this phenomenon and give a fresh perspective on the world in which we live. This exhibition looks at the journey to date and the potential to collaborate as we evolve together. We hope it will be an enlightening and dynamic experience, relevant to anyone invested in the future.’

Curated by guest curators Dr Suzanne Livingston and Maholo Uchida, the show is created and produced by Barbican International Enterprises – the Barbican’s touring arm, which creates a dynamic mix of groundbreaking contemporary art and popular culture, architecture, design, fashion and photography exhibitions, taking them all over the world. Previous shows by the team include Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction (2017), Digital Revolution (2014), which became the Barbican’s most visited show, attracting 93,000 visitors to the Centre and Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style (2012). Co-produced by Groninger Forum, Netherlands, AI: More than Human will embark on an international tour after its run at the Barbican.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a dedicated exhibition catalogue. Further details to be announced.

Co-produced with Groninger Forum