IoT, The Art Revolution

A few days ago (21st to 25th February) ARCO 2018 took place, and this edition revolved around a concept: The future.

A few days ago, a new edition of ARCOmadrid 2018, one of the most important international contemporary worldwide art exhibitions took place; this year we celebrate its 37th anniversary.

This edition does not have a guest country, as in previous editions, but it had a concept: the future. The objective according to its curators Chus Martínez, Elise Lammer and Rosa Lleó is to turn this edition into a “space that allows us to imagine, produce and propose a vision of the complexity that awaits us”.

But what is the future of the art world? Quoting Borges, “The future is not what is going to happen, but what we are going to do”.

Art and Innovation

Art has always distinguished us from other species. For forty thousand years, since the first cave paintings, artists have sought different ways of expressing both their inner world and the environment that surrounds them.

The incorporation of the digital world in the artworks allows us to build emotional connections between users and explore new ways of interaction. Now we can feel, share or contribute something to an artwork that is influenced by the IoT (internet of things).

The installation art was a paradigm of the 20th century, and many of us wonder what the emerging paradigm of the 21st century will be and whether it will involve the use of codes to improve the already interactive aspects of the artworks. We can now use real-time data such as weather, pollution sensors or wave monitoring to visualize and interact with our environment in new ways.

A good example is David Bowen‘s Tele-Present Water installation, that extracts real-time water movement and intensity information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Alaska. This information is projected through a mechanical network structure simulating the physical effects caused by the movement of water.

tele-present water from david bowen on Vimeo.


Another example of this is eCLOUD, the installation of Aaron Koblin, Nik Hafermass, and Dan Goods, at San Jose’s International Airport. It is a permanent artwork built from 3000 polycarbonate tiles called LTI SmartGlass. Each one of them is capable of changing color according to the meteorological data of more than one hundred cities. This creates a simulation that represents the climate of any city in the world, activating and deactivating individual tiles from a certain pattern.


eCLOUD from Dan Goods on Vimeo.

Augmented reality (AR) has also been incorporated into the art world. This technology has the capability to generate spaces in which the real world is combined with the virtual world, producing new perspectives within the avant-garde artistic creation, and thus generating new visions and interpretations.

The company Adrien M & Claire B has created the Mirages & Miracles project, an augmented reality project, in which you can see a series of Works in small and large formats that we can call “miraculous installations”. They offer an experience that deals with the limits between true and false, animate and inanimate, fiction and poetry.

This project is an attempt to create a digital animism. All the devices that make up the exhibition combine both analog and digital technologies. Through iPads, augmented reality animations come to life, enriching the drawings, offering small shows through poetry, technology, and fiction.

However, we can still go further and talk about the case of the artist named Neil Harbisson. He defines himself as an artist-cyborg since his pieces of art can only arise as a result of his particular condition; he is the first human being fused with technology through an antenna surgically implanted in his skull since 2004. This antenna, that has an external receiver orientated where the sight is directed, allows you to “hear” the colors, even those that we do not see. He composes music by translating colors into sounds or painting pictures by following the reverse process.

Neil Harbisson / Img: Metal Magazine

Since we started this article talking about contemporary art, ARCO-BEEP is the call for the electronic art of ARCOmadrid. The objective of this award is to promote research, production, and exhibition of art linked to new technologies or electronic art.

Eugenio Ampudia was ARCO BEEP 2018’s winner with the piece “Try Not To Think So Much” presented at the Max Estrella Gallery, an installation in which he used circuits and technologies and through which the viewer could interact with the artwork generating a kind of “random music” that in fact would be a  figurative way to represent what the piece literally means.

Eugenio Ampudia / ArcoBeep


Should artists take advantage of the options that technology offers? Mixing blockchain technology and its economic roots with art does not seem like a good idea to everyone.

Or at least this is what a group of artists tried to demonstrate with an artistic project launched through a crowdfunding program Artist Re: Thinking the blockchain. It consists of an illustrated book, where the negative perception of the influence of Blockchain technology in art is highlighted. The main point of discussion was whether the art world could be corrupted through the use of technology originally used for a financial purpose.

On the other side of the coin, several artists, developers and businessmen came together to defend that technology was good for the artists. Mike Vine, the technological evangelist of LBRY,  a platform designed to restore ownership and financial control of artworks, pointed out that through blockchain technology they are allowed to share their works, earn money for them and have a public record of who created what and when without the need for a large institution to be a mediator.

Being unable to verify the authenticity of artworks has always been a problem. Artex is a platform that establishes the historical register of art pieces, both in digital images and in elements of cultural and historical importance. Through its application, you can instantly analyze the registration and ownership of an art piece and the number of duplicates that have been made.

In addition to having access to data such as description, artist, audio, video … that are automatically transferred to museums during exhibitions, you can also obtain information about previous owners of an artwork.

The New Velázquez, Artificial Intelligence (Ai)

Artificial intelligence has already managed to defeat world chess champions, create new languages only inteligible to the machines themselves or make robots learn … but also create artworks.

Scientists are using artificial intelligence to find a new system to generate artworks. The system baptized as GAN (generative Adversarial Network) works by matching two neural networks: a generator, which produces images and a discriminator, which judges the paintings based on 81,500 examples of artworks and knowledge of different artistic styles (such as Baroque, Impressionism or Modernism)

The giant Google already launched in 2016 the  Magenta project, through which, you could create pieces of art and music through artificial intelligence and “machine learning”.

Img: Google

But who is really the author of these pieces? Can they be defined as artworks? Can non-human art exist? The debate is open.


Article written by Ana Rosa González, User Experience Manager at Barbara IoT.