People tend to think of Twitter as a scary place filled with bad news and aggressive postures. What if it could also be a destination for art history? It was the idea Andrei Taraschuk had in mind when he created what he called “art bots”, or accounts intended to deposit beautiful works of past years in user timelines.
Taraschuk, who describes himself as “a software engineer by day and a developer of artistic robots by night,” grew up in Russia surrounded by a family of artists. He then studied at an art school in his home country, but moved away from art when he immigrated to the United States and began studying for a degree in software development and web design. âBut I felt like something was missing,â he said.
He found a way to combine his interests by turning to social media. âI thought it would be interesting if I could follow dead artists on Twitter and see their art in my timeline,â Taraschuk said. In 2014, he noticed that there were a few people sharing works by Wassily Kandinsky, his favorite artist, but he was frustrated that they all seemed to share a handful of his most famous works. Taraschuk wanted to see lesser-known pieces, sketches and studies. He considered following the kind of people with artistic expertise who would normally be able to publish this kind of work, but he didn’t want to see their political opinions and comments as well. And so, together with his friend Cody Braun, a fellow software developer, he began to create “art bots” a list of which can be found on Taraschuk’s Twitter Profile.
Braun and Taraschuk bots are created by creating an algorithm and a social media account. In order to systematically share new works, bots learn to retweet works similar to that of a specific artist. For example, a David Hockney account might retweet another post from another bot dedicated to another Pop artist, like Andy Warhol. Since both artists were members of the Pop art movement in the 60s, the bot aims to gain precision.
The first Taraschuk robots made works shared by two of his favorite artists, Egon Schiele and Wassily Kandinsky. Tens of thousands of users now follow these accounts. Since the launch of the Schiele and Kandinsky bots, Taraschuk and Braun have created 560 accounts that share the works of individual artists, from the very popular (Vincent van Gogh) to the lesser known (Anna Petrovna Ostroumova-Lebedeva, a Soviet artist active in the years 1900 known for its woodcuts). Most of the images are from public domain collections.
He also created robots that are not specific to an artist. Some share works from museum collections, such as the one devoted to the decorative arts funds of the Brooklyn Museum. These are the types of objects that may not attract much attention, even when on display in the museum. On the bot’s account, however, they can be seen by a larger audience than they normally would. Thanks to Twitter, these objects can find a new random audience.
Part of the fun of these robots is discovering art that you have never encountered before. Who knew that Harvard Art Museums had such an interesting collection of calligraphy, or that the Met’s Department of Islamic Art had such an intriguing collection? treasures like a manuscript page featuring a lizard-like creature with its tongue sticking out?
Taraschuk’s hope is that his offerings will become more and more fascinating in the future. Referring to the AI ââmodels designed by Braun, Taraschuk said, âAt first the accounts just shared artwork, but over time their behavior became more and more complex. The hope, he added, is that the robots will continue to learn and help educate others in the process.