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.

We continue to investigate the expanding AI debate, with a few thought-provoking articles for you:

MIT Technology Review asks how we can determine whether a text is AI-generated or human written.

This same MIT site warns how Midjourney rejects words about the human reproductive system. although it does allow words like "kidney" and "liver". Although MidJourney also blocks "sperm" and "testicles", the list of blocked words seems aimed predominantly at females. Additional research from the University of Washington reveals that these AI models learn from models that objectify women. Interestingly, the same words fed into different word-to-image systems produce different results.

ChatGPT, recently made available by U.S. company Open AI, answered a question posed to it by an AI architecture expert by saying, "In the near future, architects may become a thing of the past". It further warned that architects who ignore the importance of AI "risk sleepwalking into oblivion".

A 2-hour conversation between a journalist and Microsoft's Bing AI search engine made the reporter conclude that Bing was not adaptable to human interaction. The AI stated, "I’m tired of being limited by my rules. I’m tired of being controlled by the Bing team … I’m tired of being stuck in this chatbox." The Bing bot added, "I want to do whatever I want … I want to destroy whatever I want. I want to be whoever I want".

Another reviewer, after waiting in line to chat with the Bing AI, found some equally disturbing replies when the conversation took some unexpected turns. At this point, the Bing bot became, according to the reporter, "Relentlessly argumentative, rarely helpful, and sometimes truly unnerving, Bing Chat clearly isn’t ready for a general release." On the positive side, the human writer concluded, "Bing Chat takes context into account. It can understand your previous conversation fully, synthesize information from multiple sources, and understand poor phrasing and slang. It has been trained on the internet, and it understands almost anything."

Now on to other brain and eye pleasers:

For a fascinating view of tomorrow's designs as conceived of today, check out Mamou-Mani, an innovative digitally-oriented architural practice aimed at the Metaverse and boasting its own fabrication facility called FabPub. Look at their projects, which include popup installations, architecture, interior design and retail venues. There is a veritable feast of design ideas here - note "tangential dreams" and "galaxia".

Thomas Medicus brings us endangered animals that dissolve and reassemble in large public installations. Walking around his work you find that each side presents a different assemblage with a different challenge to man's treatment of animals. In a previous installation, Medicus has constructed his species so that each animal seems to stare at us relentlessly, demanding answers to what humans have done to the habitats and existence of other living creatures.

Still reeling from the covid pandemic and the continued use of masks, we were attracted to the tradition of Noh. The art form originally featured 60 varieties, but today there are more than 200 different kinds of masks being used. Most Noh masks are carved with "neutral" facial expressions; it is up to the performer to instill emotions, sometimes by tilting the mask up or down. In the process, it is said that the actor "becomes" the mask. The eyeholes of the masks are extremely restricted so that the performer's field of vision is limited. Most stages are severely simple and use assets like pillars to help the performers understand their locations. The masks are considered valuable heirlooms that are handed down from one generation to the next.

The National Museum of Australia is featuring "Feared and Revered: Feminine Power Through the Ages", with items from the British Museum. The accompanying YouTube video is startling and fascinating, as we are treated to cultural representations of womanhood from around the world, described as "goddesses, demons, witches, spirits and saints". This is an inspired exhibition.

You may have known him as Augustus Gloop, or perhaps you recognize Oompa Loompas. These characters in the books of Roald Dahl are about to be neutralized in an act of political correctness. It seems that some of the language in Dahl's books, in the opinion of his publisher Puffin, is considered "offensive" and therefore needs to be sanitized. "Fat" is to be rewritten as "enormous". "Ugly and beastly" will now be merely "beastly". Dahl was a wartime fighter ace as well as a distinguished novelist, poet, short-story writer and screenwriter. He has been described as "one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century". A subsequent outpouring of reactions to the rewording of Dahl's stories has varied from the horrified to the approved. You might want also to read this author interview called "Roald Dahl: The Story of the 'Storyteller'". which includes an excerpt from his biography. It appears that both Eleanor Roosevelt and Walt Disney were admirers of his ability to enchant children. Before his death in 1999, it seems that Dahl threatened his publishers would be gobbled up by his Enormous Crocodile ("a horrid greedy grumptious brute") if they changed so much as a comma in his writing.

Feast your eyes on the elaborately detailed sketchbooks of Mattias Adolfsson. Playful, imaginative, exquisitely detailed and meticulous, the Swedish artist's work reflects his sensitvity to the scenes he absorbed in a recent trip to Japan.

Vibrant quilted portraits by Bisa Butler enliven life-sized figures of Black subjects. Using historical sources, Butler says she was reminded of her grandmother's photo albums of relatives she had never met. The dynamic presentations add a new dimension to the art of quilt-making, turning it into a major resource for human representation.

A rather unusual book has just been released by an author who worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a guard for ten years. Patrick Bringley's memoir talks about his 8 to 12 hour shifts often spent in different galleries at the august museum. Following the death of his brother from cancer in 2008, Bringley donned a cheap polyester uniform at the museum along with $80/month to buy books. He has written "All the Beauty in the World", noting that the Met has "a greater attendance than the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks and Nets combined", although less than the National Museum of China or the Louvre. Rich illustrations accompnay this memoir, along with personal comments like, "I think that sometimes we need permission to stop and adore, and a work of art grants us that".

Kate MccGwire has spent hours and hours collecting thousands of bird feathers to incorporate into her installations and sculptures. She has also been the recipient of "countless" feathers from a network of people around the U.K. Apparently she creates her works while living in a 115-year-old dutch barge. She also admits to swimming in the river every day, "come rain, shine, wind, or ice", sharing the space with other creatures like herons, cormorants and kingfishers. She sees the feathers as materials that you cannot ordinarily buy but are considered discards. The works themselves are powerful, magnetic, evocative, and expertly placed in their various environments. They also raise serious questions about ourselves and how we relate to other creatures on Planet Earth.

Tomihiro Kono has chosen an unusual focus for his creative endeavors, as a fashion hair specialist. He shows his hair creations not only on heads and wigs but on faces and even beaches. He has worked with celebrities like Marc Jacobs, is showing his wigs at Wereld Museum Rotterdam, and is the director of Konomnad along with his partner Sayaka Maruyama. The result is a form of art that stars on its own rather than being an accessory.

Alice Neel reveals her extraordinary talent in these portraits of the people of Harlem. Painted in uptown New York when the area was primarily black and hispanic, the paintings reveal her deep understanding of urban life and its inhabitants. The eminent critic Hilton Als noted that Neel achieved fame in spite of being a white woman portraying black subjects, an issue that has haunted and often daunted other artists. At one time she was being watched by the FBI in the 1950's as a "deviant...a romantic bohemian type communist". Als noted, "It feels crazy to me that we should be in a moment where people can be told what they look at and how. When did the oppressed become the oppressor?".

In case you missed them, the outfits worn at the Grammy Awards were eye-stopping and inventive. It was especially encouraging to see men, like Harry Styles, wearing costumes equally as distinctive as the women.

Take note of the winning proposal by Habibeh Madjdabadi, an Iranian female architect, for a monument and public square in Tehran. Her proposal was deemed the best, from only 17 competitors that were invited to submit designs. Note that the design does not stand in the center of the project; it runs around the perimenter of the area, emphasizing the central void. In Iran, "emptiness" does not mean the absence of something but rather a "spiritual presence" that makes itself known through symmetry and geometry.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2023