BCN 1965–1975. A look through artificial intelligence (2021).
Exhibition at Castell de Montjuïc (Barcelona)
What happens when we filter historical images through the lens of artificial intelligence? What picture of the past do machine-learning algorithms paint?
This is the starting point of the exhibition, a visual essay on the Barcelona of half a century ago that travels through an extensive constellation of images ordered and classified by an algorithm to generate a set of unique associations: from the official pictures of the Regime to those of popular movements; from military parades to repression and covertness, and from the secrecy of late Francoism to the expressions of worker empowerment.
Artificial intelligence tools are based on machine learning. In other words, they learn from the examples we give them. When fed with a considerable volume of images, artificial intelligence can learn from them and imitate them, creating new images whose elements are formally similar but never the same.
The postcards are the result of experimenting with two types of images: a set of aerial photographs of Barcelona and a batch of miscellaneous images from the decade under analysis. The uniformity of the aerial images produced a series of unreal but, to some extent, plausible images. By contrast, the array of random photographs resulted in a series of less realistic images that nevertheless tell us things about the imagery of that era. The postcards even seem to summarise or parody certain elements, like the constant presence of the authorities and their attire.