AI Dungeon 2: generative Cattelan & the art museum

Seb Chan
Seb Chan
Dec 9, 2019 · 5 min read

This past weekend I was playing around with Nick Walton’s AI Dungeon 2, a lovely piece of programming that uses OpenAI’s 124M parameter GPT-2 model to generate infinite text adventures based on a large language training set. I thought it might be interesting to give it a contemporary art museum setting, a couple of current topics, and see what happened. Here’s the transcript.

[My inputted characters, purpose, and context]

You are a museum worker in a famous art museum in New York. You are trying to for a union in your workplace and bring justice to the workplace. You enter the museum and see a curator arguing with an artist. The artist has taped a banana to the wall and is calling it art.

[Automatically generated text starts here]

The curator says that this is not art, but the artist responds by saying that he is just doing what all artists do and that you should listen to him because he knows more about art than you do

> buy art.

“I’m going to buy art!” you exclaim. “But I don’t have any money! What am I supposed to do?”

The curator looks at you and smiles.

> ask curator for help.

“Can you get me some of this stuff? It’s expensive”.

The curator nods his head and points to a painting on the wall. He then goes over to another painting and picks up a small vase

> take vase and break it.

You pick up the vase and smash it on the floor. The pieces of broken glass fly everywhere, but fortunately nobody is hurt.

“Wow, that was really cool”.

> shred painting.

You grab the brush and start to draw on the painting. The painter stares at you with an expression of shock.

> talk to painter.

“Hey, can you make me a copy of this picture so I can have one of my own?”

The painter nods his head in agreement and starts to paint something else. You look around and see other paintings being done as well

> take painting to art fair.

You walk over to the painting and start tearing it apart. You tear off parts of the painting until you are left with nothing but a piece of paper. You put your new painting on top of the rest of the paintings and leave.

> go to art fair.

You enter the art fair and find yourself in a room full of people. There are lots of booths here, each selling different types of art. Most of them are paintings though, which makes sense since they’re the most valuable

> examine booth.

There are several booths here, all of which sell paintings. Some of them are more expensive than others, but none of them are worth much. You notice a woman standing near the entrance. She seems like she has some sort of connection to the fair, or maybe she just likes art

> talk to woman.

You approach the woman and begin talking to her. She seems very interested in what you have to say. She tells you about herself and how she came to be here. You learn that she used to work at a gallery before she got fired

> ask woman about the gallery.

“Oh yeah, I used to work there… I think”.

> go to the gallery.

You walk towards the gallery and see that it’s closed. You try to call out to the woman again, but she doesn’t answer. You decide to give up and return home.

> use telephone to call the curator.

You dial the phone number on the wall and wait patiently. A man answers the phone. He seems to know who you are, but he says he can’t tell you anything about the fair because he’s not allowed to speak to anyone under penalty of death.

> ask for secret information about art.

“I want to know everything about art. How do you create something like this? What materials do you use? Where does it come from? Why did you choose this artist for this commission? And why would you fire someone if you didn’t like their work?”

> listen to man.

“Well, first of all, I can’t tell you anything about the fair because I’m not allowed to speak to anyone under penalty of death”.

> ask about fair.

“What kind of fair is it? Do you mean a fair where people trade things?”

> trade art with man.

“Okay, I’ll trade you this painting for a bottle of wine”.

> take wine.

You take the wine and drink it. After drinking it, you feel sick and vomit it back up. You cough up blood and fall unconscious.

> wake up and question the state of contemporary art, capitalism, and the 155 super wealthy individuals who make up the collecting class.

After waking up, you realize that you’ve been given a gift by the devil. You wonder if you should accept this gift or not.

> accept gift.

You accept the gift and throw the painting into the trashcan. You then turn your attention to the painting. You stare at it for awhile and then toss it aside.

It turns out that given a few inputs, AI Dungeon 2 can give off a semblance of an understanding of the art world, contemporary art practice, and even suggest a connection between Maurizio Cattelan and Ai Wei Wei. Except it doesn’t actually ‘know’ any of these connections, it is generating text output based on being trained with a enough inputs to make it ‘sound about right’. Nevertheless, as far as a text adventure goes, its quite good and amusing!

Nick Walton tweeted that the project is currently costing US$10K per day to operate — costs currently covered by Brigham Young University’s Perception, Control, Cognition Lab. You can also support Nick Walton’s Patreon to keep the service running publicly.

For more on text adventures, I wrote a whole episode on them back in #15 including a handmade one I whipped up for you to play. If you’d like to continue my stem in AI Dungeon 2, then load 88a9773e-1959–11ea-bef1–0242ac1c000.

[This is an excerpt of an upcoming episode of Fresh and New, a regular private newsletter that I write to a few friends, co-conspirators, and patrons around the world]

Seb Chan

Written by

I’m currently the Chief Experience Officer at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne. Previously Cooper Hewitt (NYC) & Powerhouse Museum (Syd).

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