There she sits on a bench in the Museum Frieder Burda, her eyes fixed on an "abstract painting" by Gerhard Richter. She only understands English, so we ask: "What are you looking at?", what are you looking at? Her head turns away from the picture with a gentle jerk. She blinks. Behind the smooth forehead, it seems to be working. Finally, the lips move, and a mechanical-sounding voice answers: "I don't know."

Ursula Scheer

Editor in the arts section.

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So much for the understanding of art by humanoid robots based on their own model, with which the artist Louisa Clement confronts collection highlights of the Baden-Baden museum: They do not know what they see. Three of Clement's "representatives" from 2022, life-size and at least from a distance quite lifelike looking dolls with metal skeleton under a silicone skin created after 3-D scans, with long-hair wigs and for the serious environment too short skirts, Udo Kittelmann has placed as artistic director of the museum in the current exhibition.

Its title "Transformers" refers to the transformative power of technology – and the science fiction series of the same name, on which a series of toys of rather monstrous man-machine walking figures is based. In the show, the artist Timur Si-Qin takes aim at advertising for the series, while a few steps further on, a tiny computer-animated robot mouse peeking out of the wall at foot height enters into dialogue with Richter's still life of a candle with children's voices. That's how cute an artificial creature can be in the cultural area.

The conversation is rather badly oiled

Louisa Clement's machine women seem rather dismissive, although they have a chatbot built into them using artificial intelligence (AI). In this way, they can and should keep conversation with the audience in the face of well-hung male classics of modern and contemporary art on the walls: works by Picasso, Lüpertz or Baselitz, Polke, Pollock or Warhol. The conversation with the performance devices is rather poorly oiled – which is strangely reassuring against the background of the excitement surrounding artificial neural networks such as the chatbot ChatGPT or the AI drawing program Dall E from the company Open AI. The two were trained so successfully with masses of data from the Internet that the language assistant can search for information and process it into term papers, applications or newspaper articles; Dall E generates images according to word instructions. That seems threatening.

Cultural insight is no more inherent in algorithmic systems than consciousness or emotional intelligence, and their so-called creativity is limited to imitation by recombining the known. Nevertheless, AI technology, as rapidly as it develops, will change our everyday lives, many professions and our media environment. Even if the much-admired chatbot still fails at mathematical text tasks and everyday questions and Microsoft's attempt to equip its search engine with AI flopped because the system became foul, lied to users and turned out to be manipulative.

So how do we master algorithms instead of letting them dominate us? How do we prevent them from monstrously increasing our weaknesses? What effect do artificial beings have in the free space of art in which the humane is negotiated? The "representatives" removed from the artist's control are most likely to raise such questions through their sheer presence. In the exhibition space, they embody the uncanny of romantic tradition, as seemingly living lifeless beings. The androids are descendants of E.T.A. Hoffmann's doll Olimpia from his story "The Sandman" and contemporary sisters of the robot woman Sofia, who appears as an "artist".