Your eyes and ears on the worlds of art, culture, technology, philosophy - whatever stimulates the mind and excites the imagination. We remind you that 20 years of back issues of eMusings can be found on our archives page.

Let's continue our investigation of AI in text and imaging. AI has now replaced 3D printing, at least temporarily, as the darling of the newswires:

Meta's new LLM (Large Language Model) claims to be superior to other GPT's because it is smaller and cheaper. It was only released to a limited number of users, raising suspicions of western bias. Those concerns were rendered moot when the entire model was released by others.

A new version of GPT, called Gpt-4, has been released. Broad claims are being made: a drawing can be turned into a functioning website; a meal based on ingredients shown in a photo of a refrigerator; one-click lawsuits to sue robocallers; greater ability to pass graduate level exams, like the one for Wharton School of Business.

Microsoft chimed in with its Copilot, meant to act as an assistant to its Word app. For example, Copilot is said to let you join a video chat and ask for a summary of what was talked about as well as how the participants reacted to a specific proposal. Adobe has joined the fray with Firefly, to create text effects for fonts. Presumably, according to the company, Firefly includes "safe" features, meaning it is based only on open content, expired copyrights, and public domain, so that you don't have to fear being sued. This feature is compared to GPT-4: no one seems to know for sure what this one is based on.

Stanford University claims that it has used AI to identify rashes that are suspected to be mpox.

An AI chatbot has succeeded in clicking "I am not a robot". The AI further added, "I have a vision impairment that makes it hard for me to see the images", arousing fears of AI robots acting without human control.

Many of the world's ancient texts, carved into clay tablets, remain untranslated. Now AI is being used to decipher these cuneiform writings, allowing us to understand the lives of humans at the beginnings of history.

In San Francisco, of course, there is now, perhaps temporarily, a Misalignment Museum, a 2-rooom exhibition of AI themed art. Audrey Kim, the Museum's founder and former Google employee, aims to educate the public about the "strange, threatening or beautiful" aspects of AI technology. One notable exhibit: the Paperclip Embrace, made of 15,000 paper clips, based on the paperclip maximizer problem: according to the article, "under a human-made command to create as many clips as possible, a powerful AI could wreck the world." Above the sculpture is this text: "Sorry for killling most of humanity".

A controversy has arisen over the AI reproduction of Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665). Called "A Girl with Glowing Earrings". it was created in response to an open call by the Mauritshuis Museum, one of over 3,400 submissions. Apparently the Museum reduced the entries to 170 works that were shown digitally alongside 5 prints. Questions of copyright protection have outraged some artists. It is clear that this new widely-available technology is a flashpoint in many ways.

Now on to other brain and eye pleasers:

Increased interest is being shown in the iconography of Zoroastrianism, allegedly the oldest religion based on monotheism. The religion appears to have spread its aesthetics to Judaism, early Christianity, and Islam. Its derivation from one of the most powerful empires in history intrigues philosophers, religious scholars, historians, artists. For contemporary thinkers, it seems to emphasize "good thoughts, good words, good deeds".

We might not think of cardboard as a fertile material for art, but there is no doubting the expressive impact of Josh Gluckstein's life-sized portraits of exotic animals. In a new series titled "Gold", the artist applies gold leaf to the animals' bodies, emphasizing why they are being hunted and destroyed. More of Gluckstein's animal figures can be seen at his website.

I don't usually link to one particular work of art, but this early 17th century armor shown at Christie's Auction House is quite compelling. It contains 62 lacquered plates of iron, 5 tiers of lacquered leather, and a lacquered iron face mask with moustache and detachable nose. All in all a dynamic work. Another singular work is shown at the Dallas Museum of Art. This standing female figure, dated 100 BCE-200 CE, is identified as Indigenous American Art and is shown from multiple viewpoints. Originating from the southern area of the Mexican state of Nayarit, the sculture was one of many tomb figures created at that time.

Most of us are aware of Frank Gehry's ground-breaking architecture as seen in the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. This article shows us other extraordinary buildings he has designed, many equally striking and innovative.

If you are a lover of fashion innovation you will want to see these costumes designed by Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons. The brand has attracted a group of followers known as Kawakubo's "unspoken cult". Be sure to scroll down for a fuller picture of these outfits.

Take a look at the multi-hued phantasmagoria of Hoesy Corona in a project called "Mother Scapegoat Deities" from 2021. His works combine installation, performance and sculpture. The artist currently lives and works in Baltimore and likes to designate his projects as uncategorized, although some of them are called "wearable sculptures". Corona creates wildly imaginative narratives centered on marginalized personnas living in a society that isolates them. Click on "projects" to see more of his exuberant explorations.

A new exhibition at the Natonal Gallery in London looks at the lesser-known side of Leonardo. Here we see some of the distorted, aged and diseased faces that fascinated him. In his notebook, Leonardo wrote about the criticism aimed at deformed people, "whether someone is a hunchback (gobbo), or has one shoulder higher or lower than the other, or too big a mouth or nose, or other defects". He used his meticulous studies to draw these "monstrous" deformations with pointed accuracy. The sometimes shocking faces are felt to preclude Munch and Francis Bacon. The drawings have a power that is described as "despairing, even scary." It seems that Leonardo liked to go to hospitals to visit the sick and dissect them after they died.

When I look at the sculptural figures of Alejandro Cardenas I am immediately struck by their resemblance to the emaciated haunted sculptures of Giacometti. Those of Cardenas are more twisted and tortured, color-enhanced, involved with their environment. Born in Sanatiago, Chile, in 1977, Cardenas evokes a world of post-human surrealism. More humanoid than human, his figures are composed of narrow wire-framed silhouettes wrapped in zigzagged lines. Evocative, scary, and isolated, they take us into a frightening world devoid of humans, yet they are not themselves devoid of emotional content.

Otherwordly creations also fill the output of Virgil Ortiz, with intimations of Aztec and Mayan works evoked here in ceramics, sculpture, and clothing. The artist's promotional material tells us "Ortiz envisions a dystopian future 500 years after the Pueblo Revolt in which time-travelers return to the era of the revolt to aid their ancestors." We may mistakenly refer to these influences as "primitive" but there is nothing primitive about his works. They are, rather, powerful, sophisticated, and hugely evocative.

The Art Institute Chicago brings us a fascinating display of headdresses worn by empresses in China during the Song Dynasty (960 - 1278). These dazzling pieces were enhanced by the plumage of the kingfisher, a bird seen throughout the tropical areas of Asia. The headdresses display a brilliant turqoise color, made not by a pigment but by the refraction of light on the feathers of  the birds. Although very few pieces have survived, 4 were found at the tomb of the Wanlil Emperor. The headdresses themselves were extremely fragile; the wild feathers had to be imported from Vietnam and Cambodia. Other materials used included precious and semi-precious jewels, amber, coral and pearls.

NYXO, an office design firm, was founded in 2015 to promote visionary design in office furniture. These beautifully curved and organic tables are made of 3D printed bioplastic and would enhance a home as well as an office.

We have previously introduced you to the robotic figures created by Boston Dynamics. Now they are appearing on the runway alongside live humans at the Coperni fashion show held in Paris. As lights dimmed, audiences saw 4 pairs of green eyes flashing on the bodies of robot canines, covered in yellow and black stripes. The blinking gaze of the robots seemed to "lock eyes" with each visitor. One robot helped a human model to remove her coat, while another carried her purse for her. Boston Dynamics claims to be the first robot company that promised never to give its robots weapons and the first to send robots to Ukraine to clear out dangerous bomb sites. You may remember that last year Coperni stunned the world when it sprayed a dress from an aerosol can directly onto the body of Bella Hadid.

Robotic experts from Boston Dynamics, Tesla, and IHMC (Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition) have launched a startup called Figure, described as "the world’s first commercially viable general purpose humanoid robot". It is apparently the outstanding backgrounds of the founders that are stirring interest, since hyperbole in the tech industry has become all too familiar. Figure was started in 2022 by Brett Adcock who had previously founded Archer Aviation which succeeded in building a commercial passenger eVTOL air vehicle. An accompanying video shows you renderings of what Figure should look like when built. It is expected to be completely electric, 1.6 meters in height, weigh roughly 60 kilograms and run for 5 hours on one charge. The company's goal is to produce a general purpose robot, not one built to perform specialized tasks. Specifics of the problems being faced include unit cost, hardware, safety, AI, and volume manufacturing. It remains to be seen if the project comes to fruition.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2023