AI Case Study

Artist Ben Snell models sculpture using machine learning

Artist Ben Snell used artificial intelligence to create a sculpture. Machine learning algorithms were fed with a large database of historical artworks, more than 1,000 classical sculptures, and programmed to generate a new piece following the same methodology. The new artwork, called Dio, is currently up for sale at London auction house Phillips.

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Project Overview

"Here’s something new: an AI-generated sculpture made from the ground remains of the computer used to design it.

It’s the work of New York artist Ben Snell, and is currently up for sale at London auction house Phillips. It’s perhaps the third signification auction of AI art in recent months, but it’s the first sculpture to go under the hammer.

Snell’s piece, named Dio, follows the basic methodology of these earlier works. Machine learning algorithms are used to scan and digest a database of historical artworks, and then attempt to reproduce the data they’ve seen, with their output guided by the artist.

In the case of Dio, the training data was an archive of more than 1,000 classical sculptures (including canonical pieces such as the Discobolus and Michelangelo’s David), though Snell is keeping shtum about the contribution he made in shaping the algorithm’s output.

After Snell finished creating the 3D model, he disassembled the computer he made it on and ground it to dust using a specially-designed sealed box. This included the computer’s enclosure, its hard drive, its RAM and its graphics processing unit. He then 3D-printed a mold of Dio and cast the sculpture into this mold using resin and the ground remains of the computer.

Doing so, he says, was an attempt to limit his control over the algorithms. With the data and training model used to create Dio’s form now turned to literal dust, the sculpture exists as a unique and unrepeatable artifact. “And voila!” says Snell. “Dio emerges with a newfound physical agency”."

Reported Results

Artist Ben Snell 3D modeled its sculpture using machine learning algorithms.

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"An archive of more than 1,000 classical sculptures"