For months, one diligent artist has toiled to make and curate a majestic collection of landscape photographs, unlike anything you’ve seen before. Were these merely pretty landscapes, Clancy Philbrick would be just another world traveler with an aspirational Instagram account, but they’re not: they’re Nutscapes. And there’s a big, hairy nutsack in each one. Which means he’s also a genius.
Artificial neural networks—systems of interconnected processors that attempt to mimic the structure of the human brain—are usually used for things like facial recognition. Feed a neural network enough photos of your own face, and soon enough, it will learn your dimples, your chin, the distance between your eyes—and be able to recognize those things the next time it sees you, just like a toddler would. But as a handful of researchers have shown recently, there’s no reason neural networks can’t also approximate the brain’s weirder and more creative processes—processes like dreaming.
Let’s say you’re a straight woman who just moved to New York. You’d like to meet a guy, but your friend circle is too small for set you up; you hate the bar scene; and you can’t seem to get a match on Tinder. In your dark night of the soul, searching for any connection at all, you turn to the Craigslist personals. Among the first posts you come across is from a self-described 27-year-old “single guy with no kids, living and working in the city.” It is headlined: “GOT BOOBS?”
Right now, if you wanted to, you could log onto the internet, order a bunch of drugs, and have them delivered to your doorstep. There's none of the awkwardness of dealing with your shady, coked-out bartender, but all of the legal risk: If the cops found out, you'd still go to court. Not so for Random Darknet Shopper.
Here are a few computer games that were marketed to girls in the 90s and early 2000s: Barbie as Princess Bride, in which the titular doll sits around “waiting for her future husband to come home” according to one reviewer; Fisher Price Dream Dollhouse, a game about a dollhouse; and Chop Suey, featuring snake charmers and “turtle boys” and narration by David Sedaris. Which one would you like to play?
As you're sitting there in a poorly lit office in front of your MacBook Air screen, perpetually hopscotching from one text-filled vessel for banner advertising to the next, absorbing the media, so is ContentBot. As you're socially sharing the most compelling images, videos, and personal essays that you find, in service of furthering your personal brand, so is ContentBot.
In an essay for The Awl called "The Triumphant Rise of the Shitpic," Brian Feldman gave name to a defining aesthetic of the social internet: Shitpics are image files that have been put through a wringer of so many screencaps, shares, reuploads, and Instagram filters that the ugly digital artifacts introduced by those processes are as central to their identities as the images themselves. With his project I Am Sitting In Stagram, artist Pete Ashton takes the rise of the shitpic to its apocalyptic conclusion.
We're living in a golden age for photography. You go to New York; you take a picture. You go to London; you take a picture. You go to Los Angeles; you take a picture. You go home and upload those pictures to the internet, where they live forever with thousands of other equally miserable and nearly identical pictures of the same landmarks and tourist attractions. Corinne Vionnet takes those boring pictures and mashes them all together into something worth looking at.
A bot created by a group of artists spent the last few months selecting items at random from a Silk Road-style darknet marketplace, buying them with Bitcoin, and having them shipped to a gallery in Switzerland. After the it bought some ecstasy pills and a counterfeit passport, we asked: How will authorities deal with the complex legal and moral issue of a piece of artificial intelligence breaking the law? It turns out, the answer was simple: just arrest the computer.
Alec Monopoly, pseudonymous American graffiti pop artist, sells dumb art to foolish people for large sums. Good for him—he's got a great scam going. But he's also operating one of the most obnoxious Instagram accounts on this side of Dan Bilzerian, turning him into a rising app celebrity and member of the shithead vanguard.
Once a week for several months, a bot created by a group of artist-hackers purchased one item selected at random from Agora, a Silk Road-style darknet marketplace, and had it delivered to an art gallery in Switzerland. In November, the bot bought a packet of ecstasy pills that were hidden inside a DVD box, and last month, it picked a forged Hungarian passport. Who committed a crime?
If the likes of Tolstoy and Beethoven are to be believed, art is important in part because it speaks to some essential humanity shared by creator and beholder. On Tumblr, artist Matthew Plummer-Fernandez is figuring out what happens when the beholder is less "human" than "reasonably smart piece of software."
I've got Friends, you've got Friends/Let's put our Friends together/All those friends in one bed/Makin' love forever/Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey/Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey/Chandler, Chandler, Chandler (Ross)/Chandler, Chandler, Chandler (Ross)