Rhizome’s Famed Art-Tech Conference Is Back at Last, And It’s All-In on A.I.

This year's 7x7 features artists Lynn Hershman Leeson, Tomás Saraceno, and more.

Xin Liu in the studio. Courtesy of the artist.

Rhizome’s noted Seven on Seven (7×7) program proceeds with the simplest of conceits: seven artists are paired with seven technologists to create something new over the course of 24 hours. What these partnerships have produced, however, has proved resonant beyond each one-day event. 

This month, 7×7 returns after a three-year hiatus with seven new artist-technologist duos. They will present the fruits of their creative labors at an experiential conference on January 27 at the New Museum, to which Rhizome is affiliated, supported by Hyundai Motors. For this edition, their challenge also comes with a particular focus: Artificial Intelligence. 

While the topic of A.I. has surfaced in past 7×7 events, its new accessibility and popularity have spurred the need for “an expansive but critical view of their role in society,” noted Michael Connor, Rhizome’s co-executive director, in a statement. 

The 7×7 conference in 2019. Courtesy New Museum and Rhizome. Photo: Mitch Sawyer.

Over email, Xinran Yuan, the 2024 event’s producer and co-curator, added: “Central to 7×7 is the idea that practice and not just discourse is one of the best ways to explore how A.I. and other emerging technologies are raising existential and ethical questions around human value, human agency, and creativity.” 

This year’s match-ups are well-placed to embark on such an inquiry. They include digital art visionary Lynn Hershman Leeson, who will be coupled with Eugenia Kuyda, the founder of “digital companion” service Replika A.I., and artist Tomás Saraceno, working alongside Harry Halpin, the CEO of Nym Technologies, a startup that focuses on internet privacy.

Also paired are Xin Liu and Christina Agapakis, head of creative at biotech firm Ginkgo Bioworks; artist Rindon Johnson and engineer Alan Steremberg; and tech-minded artist Miriam Simun and David Robert of robotics company Boston Dynamics. 

Lynn Hershman Leeson. Photo: Henny Garfunkel.

Other participants include, in Yuan’s words, “hybrid artists who don’t perfectly fit into the traditionally defined ‘art world.'” Namely: musician Reggie Watts, who will be collaborating with quantum physicist Stephon Alexander, and comedian Ana Fabrega (of Los Espookys fame), who is partnered with Cristóbal Valenzuela of A.I. research company Runway. 

“The seven pairs of collaborators featured in the upcoming 7×7 come from distinct fields and are going to address A.I. in targeted but ultimately nuanced and expansive ways,” Yuan said. “Topics range from the cosmos to the ocean, the body, biology, social organizations, love, and humor.” 

Portrait of Tomás Saraceno

Portrait of Tomás Saraceno by Dario J Laganà © Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2023

Begun in 2010, 7×7 has prided itself on being on the cutting edge, as it has served as both spark and incubator for emerging art and technology intersections. Most famously, in 2014, the program inspired artist Kevin McCoy, in partnership with tech entrepreneur Anil Dash, to mint the first art NFT, Quantum. Also produced at the conference were Image Atlas (2012), a globe-spanning search engine created by artist Taryn Simon and the late Reddit founder Aaron Swartz, and Blockedt! (2017), an “anti-social social media app” by artist Jayson Musson and Buzzfeed co-founder Jonah Peretti. 

Previous artist-technologist partnerships at 7×7—from Trevor Paglen and Mike Krieger in 2015 to American Artist and Rashida Richardson in 2019—have also delved into the then-awakening field of A.I. and neural networks. The fact that machine intelligence has become increasingly woven into our everyday reality, Yuan pointed out, adds urgency to this year’s conference.  

“By now,” she said, “A.I. has been so extensively deployed that we all now need to gain literacy and experience in working with, thinking about, and pushing back against these systems—critically, imaginatively, and expansively.” 

Tickets for the 2024 edition of 7×7 2024 are on sale here. The event will also be live streamed on the New Museum’s YouTube channel. 

 

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