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Art imitates life with help from AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is shaking up the art world. A new style of art event shows how machine learning can be applied across artistic fields

What would emotions look like if an algorithm had brushes and paint to draw them? An online prototype gallery, SentiMo — artwork from a global art-AI hackathon — can turn social media complaints into a mosaic picture, and pandemic suffering into a symphony.

The potential of AI in art led KAUST to take a prominent role in the first contemporary art-based AI hackathon, the Super Artistic AI (SAAI) factory, held from August -September 2021. “The hackathon brings together AI artists/designers and researchers to accelerate production of quality art,” says Mohamed Elhoseiny, computer scientist at KAUST and co-chair of SAAI with Christoph Faulhaber, film producer and director. 

With more than 600 participants worldwide, the hackathon included a three-day online symposium, a panel discussion with participants from Google Brain, Facebook AI and Veesual AI. It also involved collaboration in local hubs across cities including Thuwal, Riyadh, Berlin, Hamburg, Zurich, Lagos, Dubai, Mumbai, Bangalore and San Francisco.

Projects included experimenting with text, writing, music, sound, image, pictures, movement and motion. It included hackers, artists, coders, designers and developers. Elhoseiny says he was delighted with “the quality and diversity of the submissions and with the level of female participation.” Sixteen projects are shortlisted for awards in November 2021, including three projects from Saudi Arabia, which includes two from KAUST: SentiMo and AI Eclipse of diversity. 

SAAI is a global collaboration including KAUST, the Goethe Institute and ETH in Zurich. “KAUST encourages this collaboration hoping it will inspire more AI researchers and artists to engage in this vital area,” says Elhoseiny.

Projects and other details are available at