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Sandra Rodriguez transforms millions of pornographic images into abstract mosaic using AI

Plunged in darkness, visitors interact with the walls around them.

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Sandra Rodriguez transforms millions of pornographic images into abstract mosaic using AI

Plunged in darkness, visitors interact with the walls around them. When they approach, an artificial intelligence (AI) trained on millions of online erotic searches generates a mosaic of pornographic videos that evolve until they present abstract shapes. This is the new creation by Montreal artist Sandra Rodriguez.

The skin there is “uniformly light” and “smooth”, reflecting what the model “sees most in current pornographic videos”, explains the artist who created a system using several generative AI producing images from texts , such as Stable Diffusion. Its goal: to highlight “the social biases that exist in mass pornography”.

A few months earlier, she presented in Montreal a conversational robot inspired by the famous American linguist Noam Chomsky whose objective is to “demystify the secrets of AI” by chatting with the public, all in a virtual world. “It is necessary today to create works of art that speak to the public about issues that will affect them tomorrow,” maintains this creator in her forties who seeks to dispel “fears” but also “the somewhat unrealistic craze.

“Sandra is a hacker in a certain way,” says Gauthier Gidel who works at Mila (the artificial intelligence institute of Quebec). “She will take the tools, try to divert their use and show the world that this diverted use is almost better than the initial reason for which we created it,” explains the researcher who collaborates with her on several projects. In her next project, she wants to invite visitors to mix AI with dance, one of the passions of her Montreal childhood.

Born to a Spanish father working in humanitarian aid and a Quebecois mother who was a teacher, Sandra Rodriguez grew up in a cosmopolitan neighborhood of Montreal before spending part of her youth abroad. College in Spain, university in Canada then in Belgium: “it was important for our parents that we be confronted with other ways of thinking, other cultures,” says the artist whose older sister lives today to Madrid.

Initially trained in documentary cinema, she quickly used new digital media (virtual reality, AI) to find “new ways of telling human stories”. At the same time, the young director is developing a research program on the way in which the public reappropriates these new tools and the social impacts that result from them.

For seven years, she lived between Montreal and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in the United States, where she taught the very first course devoted to immersive media production. Today, his works embodying this duality have been awarded at several festivals such as the independent film festival at Sundance or the Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria.

Sandra Rodriguez "has this desire to break the limits (of these technologies, editor's note) and to go beyond them, but in an intelligent way, to bring richness", underlines Eliane Achcar, creative director at Normal Studio, which collaborates with Sandra Rodriguez. For the artist, thinking about these systems differently allows them to highlight their flaws.

By drawing only on content collected on the internet and on their own creations, AIs generating images from text reduce “little by little creativity and the way of thinking differently,” maintains Eliane Achcar. Added to this is the issue of plagiarism of the works that these systems use. An issue raised by several artists before the courts.

“We need to take breaks in the development of AI,” says Sandra Rodriguez, who has denounced the massive collection of data for several years. “Not so much because the systems are moving too fast, but because we don’t know who is using them, what data they are using.” “There is a real danger for us as citizens,” concludes the artist, worried.

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