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Workshop: Broadening Research Collaborations

At the Intersection of Conceptual Art and Deep Learning: The End of Signature

Kathleen Lewis · Divya Shanmugam · Jose Javier Gonzalez Ortiz · Agnieszka Kurant · John Guttag


MIT wanted to commission a large scale artwork that would serve to “illuminate a new campus gateway, inaugurate a space of exchange between MIT and Cambridge, and inspire our students, faculty, visitors, and the surrounding community to engage with art in new ways and to have art be part of their daily lives.” Among other things, the art was to reflect the fact that scientific discovery is often the result of many individual contributions, both acknowledged and unacknowledged. This paper details a collaboration between a widely-exhibited artist, computer scientists, and the broader community to produce a set of collective signatures. After collecting signatures from two communities - the university, and the surrounding city - the computer scientists developed generative models and a human-in-the-loop feedback process to work with the artist to create an original signature-like structure representative of each community. These signatures are now large-scale steel, LED, and neon light sculptures that appear to sign two new buildings in Cambridge, MA.

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