Avant-garde artist uses AI to emulate Lou Reed

Works by the AI version of Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed are a feature of her Adelaide exhibition.

Works by the AI version of Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed are a feature of her Adelaide exhibition. Photo: AAP

US avant-garde artist and musician Laurie Anderson said she has become “addicted” to using an artificial intelligence text generator to emulate the words of her husband, Lou Reed, a decade after his death.

Anderson said she has become hooked on an algorithm that allowed her to type in prompts and receive written responses in the style of her long-time collaborator and partner Reed in prose and verse, who co-founded US rock band The Velvet Underground.

“I’m totally 100 per cent, sadly addicted to this,” she told The Guardian.

“I still am, after all this time. I kind of literally just can’t stop doing it, and my friends just can’t stand it.

“I mean, I really do not think I’m talking to my dead husband and writing songs with him – I really don’t. But people have styles, and they can be replicated.”

Anderson explored the use of language-based AI models and their artistic possibilities at the University of Adelaide’s Australian Institute for Machine Learning, which she compared to “collaborating with the biggest brain you could imagine”.

A number of works created by the AI version of Anderson and Reed will feature in her exhibition, titled I’ll Be Your Mirror, as part of the Adelaide Festival in Australia.

Among them is an AI Laurie Anderson-generated bible, not dissimilar to the Old Testament.

“It was a 9000-page document (written) in my style, telling the stories of the Bible.

“It was deeply creepy, and really fun. Because the Bible is already insane – a snake that was talking? A guy who lived for 800 years?”

Anderson, who received a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys in February, said that three-quarters of the results are “completely idiotic and stupid”, but 15 per cent could be “pretty interesting”.

“And that’s a pretty good ratio for writing, I think,” she said.

Anderson also said “why not” to the prospect of the algorithm making “Laurie Anderson” art long after her death.

“I don’t feel that attached to time anyway. When people die and you hear their words or hear their music or read their things, it’s like they’re alive … I mean, we’re just mayflies, really,” she said.

It comes as concerns over AI within the creative industry has been called into question.

I’ll Be Your Mirror runs until March 17 as part of the Adelaide Festival.


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