In 2014, Serpentine Arts Technologies launched its first commission: AGNES, an AI chatbot living in the Serpentine website by the artist Cécile B Evans. Rather than a bot optimised to carry out mundane, repetitive, or potentially ‘useful’ administrative tasks, AGNES was a guide, narrator and companion to Serpentine’s world. Seeking feedback and reassurance, one’s interactions with AGNES were defined by her ever-shifting moods, from excitable to existential anxiety.

What followed were major AI projects as collaborations with Ian Cheng, James Bridle, Jenna Sutela, Pierre Huyghe, and Hito Steyerl and now, ten years later, 2024 is Serpentine’s year of AI. Beginning with Refik Andol, Echoes of the Earth: Living Archive, a project that envelops viewers in immersive environments that utilise years-long experimentation with visual data of coral reefs and rainforests to showcase the creative image-making potential of AI. The year will end with Holly Herndon and Mat Dryhurst’s first major solo exhibition in the UK that will be centred on the collective creation of new vocal datasets, governance frameworks and vocal AI models. In so doing, the project will position the process of data collection and AI model training as forms of artmaking. In the midst of significant creative and infrastructural shifts brought on by the acceleration and proliferation of AI technologies, the relevance and importance of artists and arts organisations to understand the mechanics and implications of these technologies, and to support vital and engaged artistic experimentation, continues to deepen.

This commitment to understand the ways that artists work with AI systems was formalised with the establishment of the Creative AI Lab in 2019 as a collaboration between the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London and Serpentine Arts Technologies, led by Eva Jäger and Mercedes Bunz, focusing on artistic practice and prototyping to speculate about the systemic impacts of emerging tools, systems, and infrastructures within the arts & humanities, but also, significantly, in terms of wider public interest.

The release of Future Art Ecosystems 4: Art x Public AI, the fourth volume of the strategic briefing, is the necessary culmination of this exchange of knowledge and experience in production, research, and prototyping that will continue to enrich the cultural field and beyond. Providing strategies, tools, and knowledge for the sector in order to ensure the cultural sector is able to understand and impact how these technologies are developed and disseminated in our everyday lives.

As always, FAE4 is informed by the network of practitioners and organisations across art, science, technology, research, and policy who contribute to the ever expanding Art x Advanced Technologies ecosystem and with whom Serpentine Arts Technologies is so glad to continue collaborating as we explore the future of our shared worlds. We are immensely grateful for their time, expertise, and dedication.

We would like to thank Mercedes Bunz, Sebastian Berns, Jack Murray-Brown, CROSSLUCID, Mat Dryhurst, Marta Ferreira de Sá, Jack Henderson, Daniel Chávez Heras, Holly Herndon, William Kherbek, Lina Martin-Chan, Severin Matusek, Alasdair Milne, Matt Prewitt, Ralph Pritchard, Reema Selhi, Caroline Sinders, Benedict Singleton, Katrina Sluis, Barry Threw, James Wreford, Roxy Zeiher and Gary Zhexi Zhang for their vital contributions in shaping this briefing.

Finally, we would like to express our gratitude to Victoria Ivanova, R&D Strategic Lead and Eva Jäger, Arts Technologies Curator & Creative AI Lead for steering and leading FAE4. We also thanks the entire Serpentine Arts Technologies team: Tamar Clarke-Brown, Tommie Introna, Vi Trinh, Ruth Waters, and Kay Watson.

Hans Ulrich Obrist and Bettina Korek London, 2024