Location: National Museum of Photography, Rotterdam 2021

Artist: Frank van der Salm

Video wall: RNDR

Soundscape: Henry Vega

AI implementation: Gjorgji Strezoski University of Amsterdam

Production: Paradox 2018-2021

This my latest project in development. Frank van der Salm has been documenting a neutral urbanized world for the past 25 years. The result is NOWHERE – an exhibition partially curated by artificial intelligence about the anonymity, neutrality and the role of images in public space. The exhibition is divided between an AI curated area and a cell-like space where all physical works reside.
 I am responsible for the spacial design and bringing in this wild idea of AI curation. The AI is trained by the artist to analyse his work according to what matters to him. By doing that the AI understands how these concepts relate to one another and which images more strongly represent them.

This is one of the most challenging and rewarding projects I came across. Designing a non-human curator of sorts that is trained by the artist is a radical departure from other curatorial approaches – at least that I am aware of. Frank van der Salm work is highly aesthetic but also critical of the standardised, neutral and non-place reality many of us live in. Therefore it is easily misunderstood and to us that became a cornerstone for the exhibition.

But how to tackle such thing?

As usual, we at Paradox took a exploratory approach to the project. The AI idea got endorsed by by Winy Maas – which at the time was a mentor to the project. I presented the idea to Stephan Rudinac from the department of Artificial Intelligence from UVA – University of Amsterdam and soon later Gjorgji Strezoski started developing the AI with us. 

To better understand the possibilities of AI we generated several experiments, being one how AI generated images would look like based on the works of Frank van der Salm. The result was a “latent space walk” which shows an early version of such images produced by Ana Zibelnik. I find this example fascinating has to me it seems to merge properties of urban and natural spaces – also present in Frank van der Salm’s work.


AI experiment recreating new visual content based on existing work of Frank van der Salm. By Ana Zibelnik

Graphic showing how the concepts relate to one another in the Frank van der Salm images.

Graphic showing how the concepts relate to one another in the Frank van der Salm images. Courtesy: Gjorgji Strezoski, University of Amsterdam