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Culture.20 Digital Summit Revisited 

Questions about the troubled future of art 

June 26, 2020  |  by Creative Armenia

From Armenia to Beijing to the Pentagon, thousands of people joined the Culture.20 Digital Summit on June 23 to explore the future of art with six cutting-edge artists — our Creative Armenia-AGBU Fellows. The dangers and opportunities of digital transition — from theatre to museums to AI-generated music — took center stage. Here are some highlights.


The Diamond in the Rough 


AI-generated music is coming. Composer and pop musician Armen Bazarian discussed its benefits and limitations and where we can expect to encounter it. According to Armen, “You can feed an AI system a bunch of samples to analyze.” Through its algorithms, AI can assess all the components within a vast range of music and create a musical piece according to the demands of the commission. Just avoid feeding it any Tom Waits songs — those always burn the system down. 


Should this dystopia come to pass, human-generated music may become as rare and as precious as a “diamond in the rough.” 

Soul + Future 


Can robots write symphonies? Classical composer and conductor Alexandr Iradyan took a philosophical approach to the question, suggesting that there are certain vital tensions robots won’t be able to imitate. 


For Alexandr, it’s all about the intention — if a machine can be self-aware, it can create a symphony. “When the machines become self-aware we don’t know how they will behave. And maybe one day my printer will start being an artist or my washing machine will become a musician.”  

The Digital Renaissance 


For the Florence-based visual artist and curator Nvard Yerkanian, the conversation about the future leads to sanctuaries of the past — museums. 


After 500 museums, including MOMA, British Museum, Guggenheim, and Museum of the Vatican, began to offer virtual visits during quarantine, the reopening of physical museums has been met with huge enthusiasm so far. “Of course, this futuristic desire to look into the future is very present right now but we cannot look into the future without understanding our past,” Nvard said.  


The Plague of the 15th century led to a reawakening of art in the Renaissance. Will that pattern repeat itself with a robust Cultural Reboot post-Covid?  


The Beautiful Mistakes 


When a machine is able to edit film a lot better than the average editor, you might get a little nervous — if you are a film editor. Filmmaker Vahagn Khachatryan talked about the future of cinema in the digital age, where machine takeover of technical tasks might in fact empower filmmakers to extend the limits of their vision and creative ambitions. 


What can’t be outsourced, according to Vahagn, are “the sense, vision, vulnerability, and mistakes. Those things a robot cannot do. And a lot of beauty in cinema comes from mistakes.” 

Jazz of the Future 


It seems that jazz — that beautiful, tricky, and playful genre of music — should improvise its way to the future. But as composer and jazz pianist Zela Margossian notes, jazz certainly can’t abide by the rules of a ZOOM-dominated, COVID-stricken world. 


“We need the [live] audience and the audience needs us,” was Zela’s very precise prescription for the future of jazz. Bach may have been a robot, but Miles Davis definitely was not.

The Progress in the Cave 


Will theatre survive in the digital age? Theatre director Tsolak Mlke-Galstyan thinks that everything will survive. Agamemnon confirms this before getting murdered with an axe.  


For Tsolak, “Live performance can go in different layers, in different places but at the same time never destroy its uniqueness.” As always, new technologies will bring new ideas and tools but the essence of theatre and storytelling will remain unharmed.  


As the world progresses technologically some of us may feel the need to regress to the caves. But don’t be surprised if the new generation of frustrated robot artists gets the same idea and follows us there for inspiration.  


Self-Quar Experiment 


Finally, our summit ended with a preview of the coming SelfQuar Experiment — a digital lab that features hundreds of creations by filmmakers, musicians, and all artists who have bottled their quarantines in a single artwork. The lab will be open to visitors soon.

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