Mexico’s Sfer Ik launches $100,000 award to support creation of AI art project

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Sfer Ik, the visual arts branch of the Azulik resort on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, has launched an open call for art projects incorporating artificial intelligence (AI). At the end of the open call—running from today (12 September) until 17 November—an international jury of curators and critics led by Sfer Ik’s creative director Marcello Dantas will select one artist’s winning proposal.

“We will collaborate with the artist and give them the means, the money, the tools and the team to make it happen,” Dantas says. There are remarkably few restrictions regarding who can apply for the award, with artists working in any country, style and medium eligible.

The terms of the open call are also very broad regarding how applicants can incorporate AI into their proposals, simply specifying that it should align with how they approach the award’s themes of interspecies connection, environmental engagement and ancestral knowledge. “It can be anything, from using an AI visualiser to model the work to using an AI chatbot to discuss the concept of the proposal, but what we want to say to artists is: don’t underestimate this platform.”

The winning artist will receive $100,000 and a two-month residency to realise their proposal at Sfer Ik’s complex outside of Tulum. There they will have access to extensive studio and fabrication facilities that include laser cutters, thermoforming machines, 3D printers and a six-axis robotic arm, as well as more traditional equipment for making glass, ceramics and more.

Inside the production facilities at Azulik City of Arts Courtesy Azulik City of Arts

“This is what really enticed me about this project, because it allows artists to completely forget about insurance, shipping, packaging, crating—all the logistical things that you deal with in museums and galleries,” Dantas says. “Here, everything’s at the site, with the local facilities—the biggest unknown you may have to deal with is hurricanes.”

Once the winning proposal is produced, it will go on display at an open-air museum Sfer Ik is building in Tulum. Two runner-ups will also be selected by the jury, and the artists behind those projects will be invited for residencies at the complex, which Dantas says could lead to the realisation of their proposals, too, depending on cost and feasibility factors.

“We really believe that there is a harmonious way to integrate art, technology, science and ancestral knowledge—and if done well, it can result in a much better position for us in the world. Everybody’s talking about the dystopian potential of AI, and we’re really thinking about the utopian applications of AI. Can AI really empower people? And we want to believe that yes, it can.”

The winning proposal will be announced during Miami Art Week in early December. While the award is a one-off for now, Dantas hopes “the model can be replicated” in future years pending the outcome of this first iteration.

In addition to its properties in and around Tulum—an ecotourism destination south of Cancun on a stretch of Mexico’s Caribbean coast known as Riviera Maya for its many archaeological sites—Azulik is currently developing a resort and art space in the AlUla region of Saudi Arabia. The founder and chief executive of Azulik is the mononymic designer and philanthropist Roth.

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