MEET THE ARTIST is a series of short interviews given by GlogauAIRs resident artists. The aim is to provide the public with the opportunity of getting to know the artist behind the art as well as to get a glimpse of the creation process that can rarely be seen.
The research group EEGB is composed of Edmund Eva & George Baldwin. After learning the skills and craft of drawing by hand, they pushed the limits of the genre, programming and building mechanical tools to create imagery.
What kind of art do you do? How do you describe it?
Edmund Eva: We describe it as being on an intersection between drawing and technology. So it's Digital Art or New Media Art, but we definitely base everything on drawing.
How do you define your work? Is it New Media Art, Robotic Art,...?
Edmund: I think we change it on the context. Sometimes it's easier to tell people you are just a digital artist because saying New Media or something else is complicated. I wouldn't say we were completely just in one of those categories. I mean, "new media artist" doesn't sum up the aspect of drawing which is a consistent theme in our work. I don't know, we don't have to be in just one!
Why did you decide to work together?
Edmund Eva: Oh, it's fate (laughs).
George Baldwin: There were lots of reasons, I think. We were doing the same course at university, and we were living together.
Edmund: So, yeah. We can spend a lot of time with each other, without killing each other. But also, I think we were inspiring each other when we were on the drawing course to go off topic, off the topic of drawing in its pure form, and towards more digital techniques.
George: We had overlapping interests, so we worked together.
Edmund: So we just bounced ideas off each other for the last five years.
Can you describe briefly your artistic process?
George: It changes per project, I guess. But we usually set out with the intention of creating a drawing and then we use some sort of technology to record, diagram or map something. We've found interesting processes with that approach.
As a team, does each one of you have specific tasks?
George: Oh yes, so I usually do a lot of the programming and Ed would do hardware and technical drawing as well. So we sort of try to share ideas, always in discussion with each other.
Edmund: Yes, on the technology side, like the practicalities of the process, we split the tasks (programming and hardware) and artistically we discuss between us, so creatively we collaborate completely, sharing and compromising.
So you studied drawing, and how did you get the technology knowledge?
George: Self-taught, there is a lot of open sourced information and programs that we can use that are free. There are also big online communities that will help you out. So there's a lot of googling (searching), just seeing what's possible and learning along the way.
Edmund: A lot of mistakes. A lot of blowing stuff up accidentally (laughs).
George: But that's part of it.
What attracted you so much in A.I. that made you start focusing on that?
George: It is a big topic at the moment and it’s kind of a scary topic. It’s in a lot of science fiction and they're always predicting end of the world scenarios, I wanted to understand that a little bit more. When you find out what the inner workings are it becomes less scary. Robots are not going to take over the world in five or fifteen years.
Edmund: Yes, I guess we both read ‘Who Owns The Future’ by Jaron Lanier, who's a Silicon Valley technologist, programmer and designer. He laid out this idea of Artificial Intelligence being a fake, just human intelligence cycled back around.
George: Yes, sort of just simulated, and there's not any intelligence as we know it, like it can work out problems but they are very specific. So if you gave an artificial image recognition software something it hasn't learnt, like a different database, like a different image of something it’s never seen before, it won't know what it is and it can't work it out, unless you train it or change the code. And that's interesting.
Can you talk about the Gestalt project you have been developing in GlogauAIR?
Edmund: Yeah, this is related to Artificial Intelligence. So, I guess when we were writing the application we just remembered reading Lanier and getting particularly interested in the topic. We've done a project before in Belfast with these robots, and then we got more interested in behaviour, swarm behaviour. observing animals and then replicating that through coding, robotics and stuff.
George: So, the project now is to develop that and put in ‘Artificial Intelligence’ in some way making it more autonomous, make the robots more autonomous. Seeing when Artificial Intelligence has control, what happens in a drawing and how can it make decisions based on the behaviour of those robots. Essentially we have a feedback loop and the drawing will also develop as a performance over a few days.
Why focusing on behaviour? And why do you conceive it as a mathematical equation?
George: During uni, I got really interested in Complex Adaptive Systems, a field of science that can describe, with mathematics, things like bird behaviour when they flock or how ant societies work. So, their overarching idea is that you can get complexity from simple behaviours, if you just multiply them. I find their work fascinating, the way they see the world, and it means you can do interesting things and make the robots have anthropomorphic qualities... it's uncertain but exciting at the same time.
How do machines, and yours especially, help us to better understand human behaviour?
Edmund: Yeah, that's interesting. I think we are seeing Artificial Intelligence as just human intelligence reconstituted on a massive scale. We are distilling human behaviours down. We are taking one sort of creative process that a human may go through and trying to simulate it through programming and robotics. Attempting to make drawings in a similar way to what a Surrealist artist might have done. Make some marks and then look at what they can see in the marks, then accentuate those marks, and look again, and keep doing this. It’s a way of idea generation or a sort of system of creativity. So we are kind of replicating that process so we can make observations about humans making these robots, making these drawings.
George: We are looking at creativity. So we make the robots, or try to, make the robots creative, and ask is it them being creative or is it us making them creative?
How do you think Berlin has contributed to help you developing your work?
Edmund: Berlin seems to have a huge tech community. We went to this nice little barbecue where we met them all and I think we've never been in a city quite like that. It's nice meeting people interested in these subjects around technology and how they connect it to art.
So you find it inspirational?
George: Yeah, definitely.
Edmund: Within our sphere of practice there's a lot more people who we can collaborate with or just converse with, which is inspiring.
You are about to participate in GlogauAIR's Open Studios, where people will get to know your work. How does the public usually react to your creations?
George: It's a mix.
Edmund: Either they hate it and they are afraid of it.
George: They think we're cheating.
Edmund: I heard a guy saying "this is scary and we should stop", and was against it completely. And then, on the other hand, you have people who find it actually very beautiful. Especially the marks that the robots make, because then they are so pure and naive yet precise.I think it comes down to that idea of what we were talking about, how people see the future. Where is technology taking us? Is it a utopia or a dystopia? You get these real extremes of people who either completely distrust and hate technology or embrace it as the savior for the future. We are people in between.
George: I am a robot actually, Ed built me to help him make drawings.