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The Whitney Biennial 2024: Even Better Than the Real Thing

71 artists and collectives participating in this year’s edition of the biennial, opening March 20th

Image Credit: Whitney Biennial 2024. Courtesy of the Whitney Museum

The Whitney Biennial 2024: Even Better Than the Real Thing, organized by Chrissie Iles, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Curator, and Meg Onli, curator at large at the Whitney, with Min Sun Jeon and Beatriz Cifuentes, centers around ideas of ‘the real.’

Image Credit: Meg Onli (left) and Chrissie Iles (right), curators for the 2024 Whitney Biennial. Bryan Derballa

According to Onli, in an interview with NPR, she and Iles “wanted to make a show that really spoke to the time, that spoke to ideas of precarity, reflecting our moment in which we're at an inflection point of AI technology, questioning ideas of what is real, and body autonomy.”

The pervasive growth of artificial intelligence during the past few years has had a demonstrative impact on questions surrounding social and cultural constructs of identity, place, space, history, and the body. As indicated in the exhibition’s subtitle, Even Better Than the Real Thing, “Artificial Intelligence (AI) is complicating our understanding of what is real — and rhetoric around gender and authenticity is being used politically and legally to perpetuate transphobia and restrict bodily autonomy.”

Reflecting the curatorial aim embracing the “fractured moment,” the Biennial commissioned the work xhairymutantx by Holly Herndonand Mat Dryhurst, which explores the impact of AI as a generative tool on creative practice.

Image credit: Holly Herndon and Mathew Dryhurst, xhairymutantx Embedding Study 1, 2024. Thermal dye diffusion transfer prints, 47 × 71 in. (119 × 180 cm). Collection of the artists

The commissioned work trains an AI model with a previously developed well-known female character, Holly Herndon, who is visually derived from the collaborating artist of the same name.  Hosted on the Whitney’s Artport, this text-to-image AI model generates alternative versions of Holly; as new images are added to the gallery, they are entered into the internet, becoming part of a larger data set behind information future AI-generated images.

The 81st edition of the Whitney Biennial is on view March 20th – August 11th 2024 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort St.