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Eileen Isagon Skyers MA’14 speaks about the intersection of art and AI on the TED2023 stage

by Melanie Moyer,

Eileen Isagon Skyers speaking at TED2023

In the emerging fields of digital art, artificial intelligence, and non-fungible tokens, many artists grapple with the boundaries between machine-made art and human qualities. Eileen Skers MA’14, a graduate of PNCA’s Critical Studies program, was recently invited to discuss these complex questions at the prestigious TED2023 conference in Vancouver, Canada.

“When I think of technology, I think of something so isolating, but maybe it's not, it doesn't have to be,” Skyers shares.

Skyers discussed how artists use machine learning models. She spoke about Sofia Crespo, who uses neural networks to imagine new biological life forms, and Ivona Tau, who examines immateriality and memory through augmented virtual reality.

Skyers credits the rigor of PNCA’s Critical Studies program with helping her prepare for challenging endeavors such as the TED Talk. “Anyone who sat in on our thesis defenses would say that they were running it more like a Ph.D. program than a Master's because the stakes were very high,” she remembers. “But in retrospect, I think it really did prepare me for many different kinds of public speaking engagements.”

“Our exploration of the full spectrum of possibilities of machine intelligence is still incredibly nascent,” she says. “These early explorations might endure history, or become significant in time — in part because they are exploring new territory.”

Part of this possibility is discovering ways to bring marginalized voices into this emerging field. “By centering women, nonbinary people, and people of color who use, or question, technology in their practices, we now have tools and platforms to bring new voices to the fore,” Skyers says.

This new era is possible, she says, because “the experiences and global connections that these technologies afford continue to have lasting effects on the world and its micro-communities. If technology is the starting point, community is always the throughline.”

Beyond her continued exploration of art and technology, Skyers is co-founding a cultural fund with curator Lindsay Howard called Gemma, which aims to incubate and support projects from contemporary artists and curators.

Skyers encourages those envisioning a career path in digital art not to wait for an opportunity to come their way. “You no longer have to wait for an assignment or approval, or for the gates to be open by a gatekeeper anymore,” she says. “Create and develop your online exhibitions, niches, and spaces. Find resources for funding them, too.”

Photo credit: Courtesy of TED Conferences, LLC.

Watch the TED Talk

Eileen Isagon Skyers MA'14 recently delivered a talk at TED2023 entitled "In the age of AI art, what can originality look like?"

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