Sarah Friend: Erotic AI and the Market-based Self
Gray Area Members Event

Sarah Friend:
Erotic AI and the Market-based Self

Monday June 26, 2023

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Gray Area Members event.


This event takes place in the Gray Area Classroom which is not ADA accessible. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and encourage anyone who may be impacted to reach out to us directly at [email protected] so that we can help accommodate their needs as best we can.

Berlin-based artist Sarah Friend discusses her new project Untitled, an exploration of consent, vulnerability, and NSFW AI.

For this project, Friend used generative AI model Stable Diffusion to generate erotic images trained on a database of images of herself. These images are then put online via social networks that allow interaction with a dedicated audience of fans, who in turn influence future content productions. The work is named in homage to Andrea Fraser's seminal 2003 video where Fraser has sex on screen with an art collector who paid $20,000 to participate.

In this presentation, Friend discusses how her experiences selling NFTs and operating in the commercial art world brought her into confrontation with unspoken cultural anxieties around pricing the “priceless”. She examines the projected sacredness of the art object critically, and in the context of other markets where similar tension is at play, with a particular focus on sex work and Onlyfans.

Web 2.0 is driven by publicly sourced content being socially shared, but an coming tsunami of synthetically generated text and images threatens to undermine the social contract of these shared spaces. Erotic and explicit AI generated images and video combined with digital art markets and the laissez faire content moderation of the decentralized web threatens to further destabilize consensus reality and public perceptions of trust online. At the same time, erotic content and sex-work has been a primary driver of technological innovation and a vital economic lifeline for many, and this market too faces disruption by the enclosure of AI models. Sarah Friends' experiment with self-sovereignty and the boundaries of identity within the capabilities of these new technologies interrogates both their possibilities and inherent contradictions.

Untitledwas launched in the Collective Worldbuilding exhibition at the HEK in Basel, born from research into the edge cases of markets and changing boundaries of the self.

About the Artist

Sarah Friend

Sarah Friend is an artist and software developer from Canada and currently based in Berlin, Germany. She is an alumni in the Berlin Program for Artists, a founder and co-curator of Ender Gallery, an artist residency taking place inside the game Minecraft, and an organizer of Our Networks, a conference on all aspects of the distributed web. She was formerly the smart contract lead for Circles UBI, a blockchain-based community currency that aims to lead to a more equal distribution of wealth. She was also the technical lead for Culturestake, a project that uses quadratic voting to lead to better decisions about arts funding. In 2022, she was a visiting Professor of blockchain art at The Cooper Union. Recent solo exhibitions include Off: Endgame, curated by Rhizome, Refraction and Fingerprints at Public Works Administration, New York, USA and Terraforming at Galerie Nagel Draxler in Berlin, Germany.

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