A new commission by Devin Kenny launches on the Whitney Museum's Artport

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A new commission by Devin Kenny launches on the Whitney Museum's Artport
Devin Kenny, a selection from Ongoing, Individual Adaptability or How to Quiet Quit, 2022

NEW YORK, NY.- Today, the Whitney Museum of American Art launched Ongoing, Individual Adaptability or How to Quiet Quit, a new project by artist Devin Kenny on whitney.org. Commissioned for artport, the Museum’s portal dedicated to Internet art and an online gallery space for commissions of net art, this two-part work explores artificial intelligence (AI) in the context of art institutions, creativity, collaboration, and labor.

To create the work, a compilation of images and videos, Kenny used a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN), a form of machine learning in which algorithms trained on specific data sets continuously generate new images with the same characteristics as the originals. Kenny’s data set to train the AI for this work comprises thousands of installation images documenting exhibitions at the Whitney Museum.

“Devin Kenny’s project considers some of the most pressing issues surrounding creativity and collaboration in the use of AI for producing art,” says Christiane Paul, Adjunct Curator of Digital Art at the Whitney. “Kenny questions many of the common assumptions about machine learning and introduces a thought-provoking conceptual twist on the idea of artmaking by connecting machine learning to the ‘machine’ of an art museum.”

For the first part of the work, titled Ongoing, Individual Adaptability, the artist selected twelve images from the GAN’s output and collaged them with excerpts of original artist correspondences and ephemera from the Whitney Museum’s library. These collages are a “cooperation” between Kenny and the AI and hint at the parallels between processes in art institutions and AI software as they enable collaboration or exert authority and control. The title of this part of the work is a quote from Octavia Butler’s novel The Parable of the Sower, which addresses themes of growth and change in the effort to construct an ideal future.

The second part, How to Quiet Quit, consists of three videos showing the GAN in the process of producing images. Each video is accompanied by a soundtrack of excerpts from online TED talks by philosopher Nick Bostrom, computer scientist Kai-Fu Lee, and artificial intelligence researcher Janelle Shane, intercepted by the artist’s comments and questions. The GAN’s evolving visual abstractions exemplify or question Kenny and the speakers’ commentary on issues of intelligence, creativity, optics, and weirdness. The title How to Quiet Quit randomly appeared on the artist’s Instagram feed and resonated with him as a means for AI or a person to achieve autonomy. As a whole, Ongoing, Individual Adaptability or How to Quiet Quit establishes a framework for questioning AI as a tool for making the art of the future by “liberating” or replacing human creativity.

Ongoing, Individual Adaptability or How to Quiet Quit is commissioned by the Whitney and the project is overseen by Christiane Paul, Adjunct Curator of Digital Art.

Devin Kenny (b. 1987, Chicago, Il; lives and works in New York, NY) is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, musician, and independent curator. Born in the South Side of Chicago, the artist relocated to New York City to pursue his undergraduate studies at The Cooper Union. He received his MFA from the New Genres department at the University of California Los Angeles in 2013 and is also an alum of the Whitney Independent Study Program and Bruce High Quality Foundation University. Kenny has held residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, SOMA Summer, and the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He has collaborated with DADDY, pooool, Studio Workout, Temporary Agency, and exhibited and performed at venues across the U.S. and internationally, including Recess, MoMA PS1, Performance Space New York, The Kitchen, and Santos Party House, New York; REDCAT and Freak City, Los Angeles; and Theater de Roode Bioscoop, Amsterdam.

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