Artists retell history of Western art with AI

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Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli's "Venus" was born in the shell, but her beautiful body parts were implanted with machine components and computer chips.

Qi Baishi (1864-1957), a well-known Chinese painting master, appeared in the classic oil painting "The Maids of Honor" by Diego Velazquez, with drones hovering from the ceiling of the ghastly palace.

"Pang Maokun: Altered Carbon 2020," a large-scale solo exhibition which boldly mixes Western classical paintings and sculptures with scientific fantasy, unveiled Thursday at Shanghai Long Museum's West Bund.

Curated by Karlheinz Ludeking, founder and chairman of the German Aesthetic Association, the exhibition restructured the history of Western art, letting it "encounter" futuristic AI technology.

In the exhibition hall of Long Museum, there are many pieces of irregularly-shaped oil paintings hanging on concrete walls. After careful inspection, visitors can easily identify "implanted" robot parts within the masterpieces such as Leonardo da Vinci's "Lady with an Ermine." And a QR code was attached on the table on Michelangelo Caravaggio's "The Supper At Emmaus." QR codes are very common in China for restaurant-goers to scan and order food on their cellphones.

"Usually robots do not look or behave like human beings. But if they do, things get tricky... In his exhibition, Pang Maokun created a kind of new artificial human life, trying to answer the question of how to distinguish a true human from a deceptively similar imitation," said Karlheinz Ludeking.

Pang, 57, is the president of Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts and vice chairman of the China Artists Association. Besides his administrative work, he is also a diligent artist.

He said that his inspiration came from a 2002 science fiction by British writer Richard K. Morgan. The book focuses on an immortal program that transfers mental content from one body to another.

Admitting that he was not a huge fan of science fiction, Pang said he watched many science fiction dramas while creating the exhibited artworks.

"We live in history, and the future unfolds in history. Nowadays, artificial intelligence is making unprecedented changes to human history. As a Chinese artist, I hope to make more people reflect on and discuss the universal topic," Pang said.

The exhibition will be on display untill March 24.

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