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Bob Ross Lives!

workshop, 2019
Hackers & Designers Summer Academy Amsterdam, The Netherlands

            The workshop was developed for a group of curious hackers and designers to explore the creative potential of GANs. The workshop took place on 23/7/2019 at NDSM, Amsterdam as part of the Hackers and Designers Summer Academy 2019 programme.

      To create a balanced discussion about the consequences of synthetic media becoming a natural part of visual communication, the participants were divided into two groups based on their preference to explore either good or malicious use cases of synthetic media. As Bob Ross used to say: “You need the dark, in order to show the light” – so we also tried to place the dark right next to the light to be able to highlight the positive and creative potential of GANs. In the end, prevailing ideas were somehow balancing on edge between good and evil – that couldn’t clearly be labeled as being genuinely good or absolutely malicious. The novelty of AI-generated synthetic media seems to fuel our inability to apply current moral criteria on them.

      The participants were told to generate their chosen scenarios on the spot with at-that-time-available ML/AI tools. This included exploring StyleGAN in Google Colab and multiple other models via RunwayML. The workshop outcomes were ranging from random hybrid selfies to txt2img conceptualized as a psychoanalytic tool.

      Why Bob Ross? Bob Ross was one of the first YouTubers before YouTube, spreading the joy of painting by making it as accessible as possible, even to people who could not afford art education. Today’s AI-driven generative tools are liberating the users in a very similar way, making machine learning more accessible to a broader audience, even to those who never learned how to code.