Does Ava Dream?

Grant Sheehan

12 June – 19 July 2020, Bottle Creek Gallery

New photographic works by Wellington-based artist Grant Sheehan.

Using sculpture, photography and video, Paremata artist Grant Sheehan explores current AI (Artificial Intelligence) technologies to visualise what an AI dream might look like; in this case, Ava’s. (Ava, the heroine in the 2014 sci-fi thriller, Ex-Machina, serves here as a metaphor for an AI conscious humanoid,)

Sheehan imagines the form Ava’s dreams could take, and what an AI dream might have in common with our understanding of human dreaming. Taking it a step further, he speculates whether the human concept of dreaming could be used to ‘humanise’ AI technologies.

To create his exhibition, Sheehan used photography ‘plug-ins’ based on a current AI system called ANN (Artificial Neural Network Architecture). He took, in part, inspiration for his project from Google’s DeepDream AI programme, which produced a series of bizarre almost psychedelic images—a result of over processing - as well as his knowledge of more recent developments in ANN.

Visitors to Does Ava Dream? will discover 21 photographs of AI dreamscapes printed on large metal-backed sheets, alongside a video in which the dream sequences and soundtrack have been created using ANN-systems. The centrepiece is a 40-page aluminium book, featuring colour photographs of an imagined AI dream sequence.

The metal book is complemented by a limited-edition paper book, The Making of Does Ava Dream, which includes 34 dream images and explanations of the processes behind the project.  It also includes a fictional interview with Avery, the world’s first Artificial General Intelligence, as imagined by Sheehan.

Listen to Grant Sheehan talking to RNZ’s Lynn Freeman about his project.