Creative AI with Angus Forbes

The collaboration between technology, aesthetic sense and curatorial decision making.

Angus Forbes is an Associate Professor in the Computational Media Department at University of California, Santa Cruz, where he directs the UCSC Creative Coding Lab. His research investigates novel techniques for visualizing and interacting with complex scientific information; His interactive artwork has been featured at museums, galleries, and festivals throughout the world. From 2013 through 2017, he chaired the IEEE VIS Arts Program, a forum that promotes dialogue about the relation of aesthetics and design to visualization research. He currently serves as the Art Gallery chair for SIGGRAPH 2021. More information about the Creative Coding Lab can be found at

Angus Forbes’ lecture discussed creative AI, which encourages artistic exploration in making new things through expressive mimicry of existing things. Through critical inquiry, machine learning is trained by a neural network architecture loosely inspired by the organization and functions of neurons in the human brain, especially the visual cortex. Huge sets of data are needed in order to produce rich results, including dynamic data, ephemeral data, and probabilistic data. Angus Forbes values the iterative design process of working with others to identify important tasks and build interactive processes that leads to new workflows or causes new sets of questions to emerge.

Exploring Machine Learning Applications For Art and Design

In Angus Forbes' workshop, students explored online generative tools with interesting deep learning techniques, such as style transfer networks, GANs and heritage sites. Students explored how these tools would be useful and serve as inspiration to generate new ideas.

The workshop also discussed how databases train algorithms with encoded opinions and biases; Sometimes it’s minor and other times it can be sexist, racist, or otherwise problematic. However, AI isn’t “bad”. People need to think about the ethical ramifications of these technologies and realize that they’re reflecting our own history and cultural patterns. Assuming the technology continues to improve, we must think about how it’ll be used for both creative purposes and nefarious purposes, and consider potential problems or ethical issues that can arise using any of these tools. Artist and designer techniques should be involved in these conversations for a better next generation of AI.

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