Kate Vass Galerie is excited to feature new series Tabula Rasa by David Young

AI and machine learning are playing an increasingly large role in our daily lives yet there is much about how they work that still remains a mystery. Do machines really “think” and if so how are we to understand their intelligence? To better understand and explore these mysteries artist David Young uses the absolute minimum training data on his machine learning models in hopes of isolating and illuminating the thoughts that are unique to machine intelligence. 

In addition to his compelling new artworks, Young has written a wonderful essay titled Tabula Rasa - Rethinking The Intelligence Of Machine Minds which asks “if machines have intelligence is it a rational intelligence or an emotional intelligence”? The essay is available at Artnome.com along with a foreword by curator and art historian Jason Bailey. In his foreword Bailey builds on Young’s line of thinking through a Jungian analysis in direct contrast to John Locke’s concept of the tabula rasa or “blank tablet.”

Rather than starting with a “blank slate,” Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung believed that we are all born with a set of shared ideas, a “collective unconscious.” According to Jung, this collective unconscious is filled with archetypes and visual symbols that resonate universally within humans regardless of their individual experience, geography, or era.

When David Young shared a contact sheet of work from his latest machine learning model which was trained on minimal data, I was shocked at how similar the images were to twentieth-century abstract paintings.

This led me to wonder, could it be possible that machine learning models also have a collective unconscious? If so, could that collective unconscious include some of the same archetypes and symbols we have as humans? Is it possible that a machine learning model, when given little to no training material (as with David’s Tabla Rasa model), produces symbols that may come largely from its own collective unconscious rather than the sparse data it has been trained on?  

Indeed, Young’s new work bares a striking resemblance to the masterworks of the abstract expressionists. As an example you can see young machine learning abstraction below in comparison with the abstract paintings of Agnes Martin.

A selection of paintings by minimalist abstract painter Agnes Martin

A selection of paintings by minimalist abstract painter Agnes Martin

A selection of work from David Young’s  Tabula Rasa

A selection of work from David Young’s Tabula Rasa

As part of our Kate Vass Galerie’s commitment to our digital collectors, we are making a series of five works by Young, specially chosen by senior curator Jason Bailey, available in our Kate Vass Digital store. These works are tokenized on the Ethereum blockchain, have been uploaded to IPFS for decentralized storage, and include a certificate of authentication from Kate Vass Galerie. Every digital work is unique ed.1/1.

Thinking about our traditional collectors who also appreciate the beauty of print and esthetics of colors and physical touch of the artist, we make those artworks also available in unique prints in various sizes. Please see the gallery.

Left to right: David Young, Kate Vass, Jason Bailey (at CADAF NYC, Spring 2019)

Left to right: David Young, Kate Vass, Jason Bailey (at CADAF NYC, Spring 2019)




Ekaterina Vasilieva