Linda Dounia’s IN/Visible NFT exhibition highlights black artists, AI’s ‘skewed’ lens

Linda Dounia’s IN/Visible NFT exhibition highlights black artists, AI’s ‘skewed’ lens

Can artificial intelligence see people of color? Senegalese artist Linda Dounia Rebeiz explores this thought-provoking question in the upcoming online exhibition she curated, IN/Visible, opening this Monday at Feral File.

It features 10 black artists, including Dounia. The series features Jah., Serwah Attafuah, Adaeze Okaro, Minne Atairu, Linda Dounia, Zoe Osborne, Arclight, AFROSCOPE, Nygilia and Rayan Elnayal.

These artists share the common goal of shedding light on the biases of AI when it comes to representing people of color. “AI biases, internet biases, and biases inherent in Western art history combine to create an environment where people of color, including black people, feel either absent or misrepresented by AI,” Dounia said Decrypt.

As an interdisciplinary artist, Dounia embossed her first NFTs in 2021. Her work draws inspiration from her personal experiences as a woman growing up in Senegal, where she witnessed significant transformations due to environmental change and globalization.

Dounia uses AI in her work, collaborating with Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) and training them using her own collected data from her environment and artistic practice.

“When you put a keyword like ‘human’ into AI platforms like Dall-E or Midjourney, the results are skewed,” she said. “You’re more likely to find pictures of white men. But when you search for ‘black person’, the AI-generated results are often distorted, either in facial features or body proportions.”

“Perceived” by Serwah Attafuah

Dounia explained that AI often relies on stereotypes in its representations. “It is clear from these outputs that AI does not fully understand black people, their origins or their contexts,” she said.

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These issues are highlighted by the works of art shown in the exhibition. While Dounia blurs the entire face as a rejection of the AI’s output, Arclight incorporates the distortions into their parts, resulting in blurry and ill-defined images.

On the other hand, artists such as Minne Atairu and Serwah Attafuah create aesthetically pleasing works with well-defined faces and lighting, but upon closer inspection, inconsistencies in the representation of hair become apparent.

Zoe Osborne uses filters to blur out inconsistencies, giving her portraits a vintage look that represents her perspective on AI’s fidelity in representation. Jah takes a different approach by embracing AI’s imperfections and using them to create surreal characters inspired by African masks and ancient Egyptian attire.

“The Idunnos, #45” by Jah

This activist approach is strongly advocated by Linda Dounia, who believes that these questions must be raised. “AI is not created in an apolitical vacuum,” Dounia said. “There are people who create the algorithms, the interfaces, collect the data and use it to train the algorithms. If these people are not aware of the problems, we cannot correct the bias.”

Furthermore, launching an NFT exhibition that explores these issues is also a way to spread a message within the Web3 ecosystem, often misrepresented as an apolitical space. “I was a little worried about the reactions when I started the cure, but so far it’s been well received,” Dounia said.

“Confetti, #7” by Nygilia

Also, the artist emphasizes the importance of uplifting and empowering black artists, as they play a crucial role in addressing this issue. “If more black artists start using the tool to provide contextual references, they are actively contributing data to correct the errors,” she explained, noting that this collective effort could lead to a more inclusive representation of cultural references on a democratic way.

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The first 24 hours after the exhibition’s opening at 14:00 UTC on June 12th, collectors will have the opportunity to acquire sets including the 10 artworks showcased at the event for 0.55 ETH per set.

After this limited period, individual art editions will be made available for 0.055 ETH per edition.

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