curated theme

Photography Through the Lens of AI

How is an AI image exactly generated? What risks do artificially generated images pose? How does an AI artwork come into existence? In Photography Through the Lens of AI, Foam delves deeper into the world of artificial intelligence and discusses the relation between this rapidly evolving technology and the photographic medium. 

A self-portrait of an algorithm no.89, 2023 © Maria Mavropoulou, AI-generated image

This curated theme is part of the multidimensional project organised by Foam around the topic of Artificial Intelligence. The project includes two exhibitions at Foam, a Foam Magazine issue and an interactive experience made in collaboration with creative studio affect lab, presented in the museum as well as online.

On this page, you can learn more about the history of AI images, how an text-to-image generator works and view video works from the artists of Foam Magazine #66. Or join the conversation about bias in AI and share your thoughts in the Ctrl.Alt.Img quiz.

Vistas #22, 2020 © Brea Souders
Untitled, from the series In Their Own Image of God, They Created Them © Maria Mavropoulou
Variations of an Erosion op. 1, 2023 © Miti Ruangkritya
—Katy Hundertmark in Foam Magazine #66: Missing Mirror

Inside the Black Box

Text-to-image generators have gained tremendous popularity over the past years. This specific application of artificial intelligence allows users to create digital images based on textual input. It seems that any desired image is just a few clicks away, with little to no technological knowledge about the inner workings needed.

But what happens underneath the hood? How does a text-to-image AI exactly work? This step-by-step explainer will lift (some) of the curtains of image generation and shed light inside the black box of AI.

Find out more
© Cat image: Cats vs Dogs Database, Kaggle (2013). Design by Studio Sallali

The History of AI images
by Ágnes Ferenczi

The history of Artificial Intelligence traces back further than the invention of the first computer. For centuries, mechanical intelligence, ‘automatons’, or humanoid robots have fascinated human thought, resulting in many fictional explorations and experiments. With the advance of the first computer systems in the 1940s and 1950s, the possibility of thinking machines emerged.

In this article, art historian Ágnes Ferenczi walks us through the history of artificially generated imagery and explores how AI artworks are finding their place within the art world.

Read the article
From Innovation to Art: The History of AI Images in Foam Magazine #66: Missing Mirror © Foam Magazine. Article by Ágnes Ferenczi

Join the conversation about AI

Photographer Çiğdem Yüksel struggled to recognise herself in the photos used by the Dutch media to represent Muslim women. These images often show a veiled woman from behind, at a distance, holding a shopping bag. Muslim women at work, doing sports or at school are rarely featured. If new machine learning tools are being trained on datasets that reflect existing stereotypes, then how can we future-proof AI images to be more inclusive?

Play the Ctrl.Alt.Img quiz
Ctrl.Alt.Img © Affect Lab
—Katy Hundertmark in Foam Magazine #66: Missing Mirror

Video works from Foam Magazine #66

We invited two artists, featured in Foam Magazine #66, to present their video works here on Foam Explore. Extending from the magazine portfolios, we show the original video works and bring the printed page to live.

We proudly present the work of artists Jake Elwes and Morehshin Allahyari.

The Zizi Project (2019 – ongoing) © Foam. Images by Jake Elwes
The Zizi Project (2019 – ongoing) © Foam. Images by Jake Elwes
The Zizi Project (2019 – ongoing) © Foam. Images by Jake Elwes

The Zizi Project (2019 – ongoing) — Jake Elwes

Film still from an AI generated video work, showing an artificial drag queen dancing on a stage.  © Jake Elwes

In The Zizi Project (2019 – ongoing), artist Jake Elwes brings together drag performance and deepfake technology in an energetic collection of works, including the world’s first deepfake drag show The Zizi Show (2020). With their project, the artist disrupts the continuing presence of gender bias and queer exclusion within our current AI systems. Elwes collaborated with thirteen of UK's top drag artists and trained an AI dataset on their imagery.

Spread from Morehshin Allahyari's portfolio in Foam Magazine #66 © Foam Magazine. Image by Morehshin Allahyari
Spread from Morehshin Allahyari's portfolio in Foam Magazine #66 © Foam Magazine. Image by Morehshin Allahyari
Spread from Morehshin Allahyari's portfolio in Foam Magazine #66 © Foam Magazine. Image by Morehshin Allahyari

ماه طلعت Moon-faced — Morehshin Allahyari

Video still showing a Persian painting of a person. © Morehshin Allahyari

In ancient Persian literature, ماه طلعت (Moon-faced) was a genderless adjective used to define beauty in both men and women. A similar queer approach to genders can also be found in the influential portrait paintings of the Qājār dynasty (1786 – 1925) in Iran. However, the modernisation of Iran under Western influence ended the fluid and non-binary representation of gender. For her project, Morehshin Allahyari collaborated with a machine learning programme to recreate portraits in the Qājār tradition. As such, she challenges the western gaze and reinforces the nonbinary representation historically present in Persian visual culture.

Foam Magazine #66 Missing Mirror

As part of the overarching project, Foam Magazine #66: Missing MirrorPhotography Through the Lens of AI looks at the growing overlaps between art, technology, and society, exploring how the recent advancements in AI impact our relationship with the image, ourselves, and our perception of reality. How do we form a truthful image of the world when credibility is questioned? And vice versa, how do we recognise ourselves in the images around us?

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© Foam Magazine #66: Missing Mirror. Cover image: Image from the series Aleph-2

Come and see the exhibitions Missing Mirror and AI Attacks in Amsterdam

Foam is thrilled to host a thematic group exhibition Missing Mirror: Photography Through the Lens of AI that dives deeper into the latest developments in photography through the lens of Artificial Intelligence.

Alongside the group exhibition, Foam presents artist Paulo Cirio in the Next Level series with his exhibition AI Attacks. In this exhibition, Cirio shows different video works as well as a new work that made on commission for this show.

On view at Foam in Amsterdam from 31 May until 11 September 2024.

learn more about the exhibitions, N2, from the series Obscurity, 2016 © Paolo Cirio

Visit the museum

This curated theme page, as well as the collaboration with creative studio affect lab is funded with the generous support of Cultuurloket DigitALL.

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Photography Through the Lens of AI