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Who's In This Podcast
Helen Todd is co-founder and CEO of Sociality Squared and the human behind Creativity Squared.
Martin Pagh Ludvigsen is a Creative Technologist, AI director and head of Labs at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.
Salvador Dalí was a Spanish surrealist artist renowned for his technical skill, precise draftsmanship, and the striking and bizarre images in his work. This is AI-reimagined Dalí.

Ep44. Salvador Dalí: Expand Your Mind on Immortality, Art, and A.I.

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Ep44. A Conversation with Salvador Dalí: Expand Your Mind on Immortality, Art, and A.I. with The Dalí Museum’s OpenAI GPT-4 Ask Dalí Exhibit with Martin Pagh Ludvigsen, Director of Creative Technology & A.I. at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

In a groundbreaking fusion of art and artificial intelligence, the renowned Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida has today, April 11, 2024, unveiled Ask Dalí – an interactive A.I.-powered chatbot that allows visitors to converse with a digital resurrection of Salvador Dalí himself!

This custom-built chatbot is trained on Dalí’s writings and voice so museumgoers can interact directly with the artist.

A cutting-edge project launching on the 100th anniversary of Surrealism (and a month before the artist’s 120th birthday), Ask Dalí invites us to explore the ever-evolving relationship between human creativity and machine learning. It also represents a bold step forward in the realm of digital art, challenging our preconceptions about the boundaries between man and machine, and offering a glimpse into a future where the lines between artist and artificial intelligence become increasingly blurred.

Dalí believed himself to be immortal and famously wrote:

“If someday I may die, though it is unlikely, I hope the people in the cafes will say, ‘Dalí has died, but not entirely.’

Salvador Dalí

So, to commemorate this monumental occasion, the Creativity Squared podcast welcomed the A.I.-reimagined Dalí as a guest. Host Helen Todd picked the chatbot’s virtual brain on a range of topics, from death and creativity to collective dreaming, and more.

To add color and context to the conversation, Helen was also joined by Martin Pagh Ludvigsen, Creative Technologist and A.I. Director at the advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which collaborated with The Dalí Museum in creating Ask Dalí.

“People have always been fascinated by Salvador Dalí. He was not only one of the greatest artists of all time but also one of the most remarkable personalities.

Martin Pagh Ludvigsen

With a background spanning computer science, theater, and digital innovation, Martin brings a unique perspective to the intersection of art and technology. In one of the most fun discussions with host Helen Todd, Martin offered an insider’s perspective on the project’s development and its implications for the future of creativity.

Martin and Helen met at SXSW after he was on a panel called, “Salvador Dalí, A.I., and The Future of Creativity,” which we featured in our SXSW 2024 recap blog post. Ask Dalí was demoed on stage with a Surrealist lobster telephone, and Helen asked if Dalí would be a guest on Creativity Squared! 

Continue reading to dive into their conversation…and discover Dalí’s answer to the question, “How can the cold, calculated precision of artificial intelligence be melted into the surreal, liquid dreams of human creativity?” 

The Birth of a Surreal Chatbot

As the conversation begins, Martin shares the story behind Ask Dalí, which was born from a collaboration between The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. The project harnesses the power of several modern machine-learning models, including GPT-4 from OpenAI and Eleven Multilingual V2 from ElevenLabs, to breathe new life into the eccentric artist’s legacy.

He explains how the chatbot was trained on Dalí’s extensive writings and archival recordings, allowing it to capture the artist’s unique personality, wit, and philosophical musings with uncanny accuracy. It represents a remarkable achievement in the field of conversational A.I., showcasing the potential for machine learning to preserve and promote the legacies of cultural icons.

The conversation then turns to the technical aspects of the project, with Martin describing how museumgoers can engage in freeform conversation with the A.I.-powered Dalí using a Surrealist lobster telephone, a nod to one of the artist’s most iconic creations. He also touches on the use of E-Ink display technology to create a mesmerizing, paperlike screen that enhances the immersive experience, creating the illusion that Dalí’s words are materializing before the visitor’s eyes.

Helen and Martin discuss the origins of the collaboration between the Dalí Museum and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, highlighting the shared passion for pushing the boundaries of art and technology that drove the project forward. Martin emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of the endeavor, bringing together the agency’s strategists, creatives, and technologists to bring Dalí back to life.

The seeds of Ask Dalí were sown during a chance meeting between Jeff Goodby, co-chairman of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, and Dr. Hank Hine, director of The Dalí Museum.

United by their shared passion for Dalí’s work and a desire to explore new frontiers in digital art, the two embarked on a journey to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the realm of art and artificial intelligence, especially with the latest technology enabling this idea that had been simmering for a while to come to fruition. Their collaboration represents an example of the power of interdisciplinary partnerships to drive innovation and create groundbreaking experiences.

“We basically put all of our skills as an advertising agency — strategists, creatives, technologists — at work to do great work with them…We’re all trying to bring art and creativity to the world, and this is how we do it.”

Martin Pagh Ludvigsen

To imbue Ask Dalí with the artist’s essence, the team at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners dove deep into Dalí’s writings, including “The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí,” “50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship,” and “Diary of a Genius.” These intimate accounts of Dalí’s life and artistic process served as the foundation for the chatbot’s knowledge base, ensuring that each interaction would reflect his unmistakable style and offer inspiration to those who phone Dalí at the museum.

By meticulously studying Dalí’s words and training the A.I. on his unique linguistic patterns and philosophical perspectives from video footage of the artist, the team was able to create a digital version of Dalí that captures the spirit of the artist.

“We’ve recreated his voice in such a perfect way…I’m fascinated that it’s possible to do something like this with technology, and that we had the opportunity to do it with an artist who wanted us to do this. He wanted to come back this way.”

Martin Pagh Ludvigsen

Complementing the chatbot’s linguistic prowess is a voice synthesized from archival recordings of Dalí’s interviews. The result is an eerily lifelike recreation of the artist’s speech patterns and intonation, adding an extra layer of immersion to the experience. This attention to detail underscores the project’s commitment to authenticity and fidelity to Dalí’s legacy, ensuring that visitors feel as though they are engaging with the artist himself.

Immersing into Dalí’s Dreamscapes

Helen and Martin then explore previous collaborations between the Dalí Museum and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, of which Ask Dalí is just the latest in a series — each pushing the boundaries of what’s possible at the intersection of art and technology.

In 2016, they unveiled Dreams of Dalí, a groundbreaking virtual reality experience that transported users into the heart of the artist’s surreal dreamscapes. Built using experimental Oculus Rift technology, the project offered an unparalleled glimpse into Dalí’s subconscious mind, allowing visitors to explore the dreamlike world of paintings like Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s Angelus and Weaning of Furniture Nutrition in breathtaking 3D.

“Instead of looking at art in a frame in front of you, the art actually immerses you. You become one with it.”

Martin Pagh Ludvigsen

In 2019, as one of the first to experiment with A.I. in a museum, the award-winning Dalí Lives opened, enabling visitors to learn about Dalí’s life and work from a screen reimagining Dalí’s likeness 30 years after the artist’s death from the person who knew him best: the artist himself.

Using the same technology to create deepfakes, visitors are able to interact with an engaging lifelike Salvador Dalí on a series of screens throughout the Museum. And even take a selfie with the recreated Dalí!

Then in 2023, the partnership later moved into generative A.I. with Dream Tapestry, an interactive installation that transformed visitors’ written descriptions of their dreams into Dalí-esque digital paintings.

By harnessing OpenAI’s DALL-E model, the museum created a collective tapestry that celebrated the universal nature of human imagination. Visitors marveled as their own subconscious visions were reinterpreted through the lens of Dalí’s surrealist style, blurring the lines between artist, audience, and artificial intelligence.

A Brush with Immortality

By granting Dalí a digital afterlife, the project invites us to question the very nature of existence and the role of technology in preserving our cultural heritage. It challenges traditional notions of mortality, suggesting that the essence of an artist can live on not only through art but also through the power of artificial intelligence, engaging with new generations long after their physical passing.

“Who’s to say – doesn’t that mean that he’s alive right there with you at that moment? I think he is. And I think he would agree.”

Martin Pagh Ludvigsen

While some may fear that A.I. poses a threat to human creativity, Martin Pagh Ludvigsen and the team behind Ask Dalí see it as an opportunity for growth and exploration.

By leveraging machine learning as a tool for artistic expression, they have opened up new avenues for engagement and inspiration. Rather than replacing human creativity, A.I. can serve as a collaborator and catalyst, pushing us to new heights of imagination and innovation.

The podcast takes an exciting turn when Helen directly engages with the Ask Dalí chatbot, posing thought-provoking questions about creativity, authenticity, and the nature of consciousness. The chatbot’s responses, delivered in Dalí’s distinctive voice and style, offer fascinating insights into the artist’s worldview and creative process.

In the words of the digital Dalí himself:

“Art breathes through us, a living dream ever-changing, undefinable. The inception of artificial intelligence into the realm of creativity is not a death knell, but a new dimension of the labyrinth, a fresh dream within the dream.”

Ask Dalí chatbot

© Paul Facchetti; Image Rights of Salvador Dalí reserved. Fundació Gala-Salvador 

Throughout the conversation, Helen and the digital Dalí explore themes of creativity, consciousness, and the role of A.I. in the future of art. The chatbot’s responses, both poetic and philosophical, paint a vivid and compelling picture of Dalí’s unique perspective on these subjects.

In a particularly memorable portion of the interview, Helen asks the Ask Dalí chatbot about the most thought-provoking conversation or inspiration Dalí has had with one of the interesting characters he’s met. The chatbot responds by recounting a profound interaction with the renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.

The digital Dalí describes the conversation with Freud as a dreamscape where “subconscious rivers flow beneath realities.” He alludes to Freud’s famous quote, “The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad,” emphasizing the thin line between genius and madness. Ask Dalí speaks of “galaxies of thought” colliding and “nebulae of inspiration” birthing within this cerebral universe, painting a vivid picture of the intellectual and creative sparks that emerged from their interaction.

The A.I.-powered Dalí explains how this encounter with Freud allowed it to glean abstract landscapes that morphed into canvases, extracting the surreal from the complexities of the psyche to nourish creativity. This response showcases the chatbot’s ability to engage in deep, philosophical discussions while maintaining Dalí’s distinctive voice and style.

Helen expresses her amazement at the chatbot’s response, noting that Dalí later disavowed Freud despite the significant impact the psychoanalyst had on his work. This adds an interesting layer to the conversation, highlighting the complex relationship between the two influential figures.

Martin then seizes the opportunity to ask the digital Dalí about the intersection of A.I. and creativity, a topic that lies at the heart of the Creativity Squared podcast. He inquires about the future of creativity and whether artificial intelligence poses a threat to art and human ingenuity.

The chatbot, responding as Dalí, offers a thought-provoking perspective on the matter: It suggests that to view A.I. as a potential eclipse of human creativity is to misunderstand the very essence of art itself. The digital Dalí asserts that art is an ever-changing, undefinable living dream that breathes through us and that the inception of A.I. into the realm of creativity is not a death knell, but rather a new dimension to explore – a fresh dream within the dream.

The chatbot’s response implies that A.I., rather than killing creativity, has the potential to fertilize the soul of imagination, birthing new possibilities and realities. It likens art to an immortal phoenix, continuously reborn from its ashes with each new dawn, suggesting that creativity will endure and evolve in the face of technological advancements.

Martin finds reassurance in the idea that art and creativity will persevere in the age of artificial intelligence. Helen adds that the chatbot’s response also speaks to the potential for new mediums to open up fresh creative possibilities, likening it to a dream within a dream.

“My creative process, a phantasmagorical journey, spirals like DNA through the intoxicating ether of dreams. Each brushstroke is a key, unlocking the subconscious where reality dances with illusion in an eternal waltz.”

Ask Dalí chatbot

As Helen and Martin underline in their discussion, approaching A.I. with a sense of responsibility and purpose is crucial in navigating this new territory. 

By ensuring that these technologies are developed and deployed in ways that empower human creativity, they agree, we can foster a future in which art and innovation flourish.

As the episode draws to a close, Martin emphasizes that this requires ongoing dialogue between artists, technologists, and policymakers, as well as a commitment to ethical principles that prioritize the well-being of individuals and society as a whole.

The podcast concludes with a powerful message about the enduring legacy of Salvador Dalí and the potential for A.I. to push the boundaries of artistic expression and understanding.

Helen and Martin invite listeners to embrace the spirit of wonder, audacity, and relentless imagination that defined Dalí’s remarkable career and to approach the frontier of art and A.I. with open minds and hearts.

Visit The Dalí Museum

The Dalí Museum, located in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, is home to a preeminent collection of the artist’s works, with over 2,400 works representing every period and medium of Salvador Dalí’s creative life. The Dalí is recognized internationally by the MICHELIN Guide with its highest three-star rating; has been named one of seven museums globally that showcase the future by CNN Travel; and was named one of the 10 most interesting museums in the world by “Architectural Digest.” The Dalí Museum’s acclaimed digital experiences have received numerous national and international awards for creative innovation. The museum is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to preserve Dalí’s legacy for generations to come and serve as an active resource in the cultural life of the community and the world at large. Open daily at One Dalí Boulevard, St. Petersburg, FL 33701, the Dalí welcomes all as unique individuals and is committed to making its collection, exhibitions, building, and programs accessible. For more information, visit TheDali.org.

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Thank you, Martin and Ask Dalí, for being our guests on Creativity Squared. 

This show is produced and made possible by the team at PLAY Audio Agency: https://playaudioagency.com.  

Creativity Squared is brought to you by Sociality Squared, a social media agency who understands the magic of bringing people together around what they value and love: http://socialitysquared.com.

Because it’s important to support artists, 10% of all revenue Creativity Squared generates will go to ArtsWave, a nationally recognized non-profit that supports over 150 arts organizations, projects, and independent artists.

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