Antenna Live at the Science Museum: The Painting Fool paints portraits (if it’s in a good mood)

At The MetaMakers Institute, we like questioning things and we’ve recently spent 3 days ( 27–29 October) at the science museum in London challenging people’s ideas about software as a creative entity. Can a computer program be an artist? Or even a game designer? We think that creativity and artistic skill are not necessary unique to humans. It might be that, one day, a computer program could be taken seriously as a creator. That’s why The Painting Fool – software and also a aspiring artist – has been painting visitors’ portraits reflecting its mood, which is based on newspaper articles that it reads throughout the day. It exhibits behaviours which are skilful, imaginative, appreciative and most importantly, intentional, and it learns from each portrait to be better at expressing its mood through painting in the future.

Some of the more of four thousand visitors who approached us, also played with Cyllr, our casual creator iPhone app which enables people to design games on their phone. Visitors asked us all sorts of questions, philosophical and technical, that will influence our future research. This event gave us the chance to interact with a broad section of the public, from 4 year olds to adults, and to engage with them about the relationships between intentionality, creativity and artificial intelligence. Our computer artist painted more than 300 portraits, and the audience was impressed by the autonomy and intentionality of the software. The Painting Fool creates by itself and with this exhibition, we wanted to show that we don’t control what it does, We got the impression that some people was mesmerised for hours watching the software paint! The Science Museum Lates are adults-only, after-hours theme nights that take place on the last Wednesday of every month, they are very popular and we were really pleased to see that all night long there were always more than 30 people around the exhibit.  4299 is the total visitors figure for the 3 day exhibit.



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The MetaMakers at the Science Museum London