What is this website?

This website provides a means of interfacing with an experimental art(ificial) critic. This 'critic' is a language model built using RunwayML and GPT-2 – trained on the collected art criticism of writer Habib William Kherbek – which can generate art reviews based on a short text prompt. This website is twinned with a larger publishing project titled Entropia, which contains Kherbek’s collected writing, published by Abstract Supply.

Why make this model/interface?

Language models, trained on a narrow dataset such as this, can provide generative insights in two key ways:

  • Firstly, they can provide a unique way of inferring & identifying patterns – political, cultural, linguistic, etc – which underlie their source material. In this case, both the art scene of London and Berlin (between 2010 – 2020) as well as the interests, concerns and style(s) of Kherbek, as a writer, himself.
  • Secondly, through prompt engineering these models can act as a kind of writing companion or collaborator, halfway between an artificial and an authentic Kherbek. This particular model may also help generate ideas for entirely new exhibitions or artworks as it must also 'imagine' an event or exhibit to review.

However, in making this interface, we also wish to draw attention to the problems of such technologies, and the possibility of non-human, art(ificial) critics, writers and synthetic language systems supplanting human livelihoods and practices.

What is the Archive?

The archive section of the website contains a record of reviews prompted by people interfacing with the model. You can add to it by generating your own review and giving it a title.

Where can I read more about Entropia?

There is more information about the Entropia project, including events and recordings discussing the book on the Abstract Supply website. You can purchase both volumes of the book from the site here.

Who is involved & How can I contact them?

Please contact us at info@abstract.supply with any comments or queries.

Habib William Kherbek, whose collected writing was used as training data for this project, was born in Kansas City. He is the writer of the novels Ecology of Secrets (2013), ULTRALIFE(2016), New Adventures (2020) and Best Practices (2021). Poetry collections by Kherbek include 26 Ideologies for Aspiring Ideologists (2018) and Everyday Luxuries (2018). His nonfiction titles includeTechnofeudalism Rising (2021), and Hyperenclosure (2022).

Kherbek’s art journalism has appeared in numerous publications including Rhizome.org, Mousse, Flash Art, AQNB, Spike, Berlin Art Link, Sleek, and several now defunct publications including Modern Painters, Samizdat and The Playground. Kherbek lives in Berlin and teaches at the Berlin Art Institute.

Jack Clarke, who built this interface, is editor of Abstract Supply and lecturer in design and communication at Camberwell College of Arts, London.