Data-Driven Video Features Algorithmically Generated Creatures Meant to Raise Awareness on Endangered Species

Times Square Arts, the largest public platform for contemporary performance and visual arts, is pleased to present Critically Extant by data-driven digital artist Sofia Crespo for the month of May as part of the organization’s signature Midnight Moment series. The piece is presented in partnership with Meta Open Arts.

Midnight Moment is the world’s largest, longest-running digital art exhibition, synchronized on over 90 electronic billboards throughout Times Square nightly from 11:57pm to midnight. This year, Times Square Arts is celebrating the ten year anniversary of the Midnight Moment series with a roster of all women artists until April 2023.

Sofia Crespo’s work explores biology and technology, using artificial mechanisms as a means to simulate organic life. Using artificial intelligence, algorithmic modeling and open-source data, her work employs digital techniques to investigate the natural world. In her Midnight Moment work, Critically Extant the artist explores how limited our knowledge is about the natural world by testing the limits of openly available data  that resides on digital platforms. The artist trained artificial-intelligence algorithms using millions of open-source images of nature, totaling around ten thousand animal and plant species. The resulting models were then used to generate visual representations of species that are critically endangered but have little public outcry or dedicated social media campaigns to acknowledge or stifle their impending extinction. Due to missing and skewed data, many of the creatures generated by the AI bear little to no resemblance to the species they are meant to depict – introducing an element of fantasy into this data-driven project, and reminding us that technologies are biased products that reflect the limitations of their creators.

“In the same way we can’t imagine a color we’ve never seen before, a neural network can’t image something from data it didn’t receive. The creatures in this exhibition are a reflection of our collective knowledge of the natural world, which is very limited,” said artist Sofia Crespo.

Crespo’s project aims to trace the edges of our collective knowledge, while also exploring how digital feedback loops might be harnessed for positive effects in the natural world. For this reason, the artist has also created a collection of AR filters inspired by critically-endangered plant and animal species native to the New York region. By framing endangered species and ourselves in the same image, and making these images part of our daily digital intake, the artist experiments with new ways of creating awareness and engagement.

Critically Extant is presented by Meta Open Arts and Meta AI Research, where the artist was in residence in 2021 and first developed this project. For the Midnight Moment, Crespo has compiled animations of the algorithmically generated species into a cohesive video with generated sounds remixed by sound artist Alejandro Mune.

Sofia Crespo is an artist working with a huge interest in biology-inspired technologies. One of her main focuses is the way organic life uses artificial mechanisms to simulate itself and evolve, this implying the idea that technologies are a biased product of the organic life that created them and not a completely separated object. Crespo looks at the similarities between techniques of AI image formation, and the way that humans express themselves creatively and cognitively recognize their world. Her work brings into question the potential of AI in artistic practice and its ability to reshape our understanding of creativity. On the side, she is also hugely concerned with the dynamic change in the role of the artists working with machine learning techniques. She’s also the co-founder of Entangled Others Studio.

Meta Open Arts empowers artists and builds community through creativity. Founded in 2010, Meta Open Arts partners with cultural organizations and collaborates with artists and designers around the world, providing resources to maximize creativity and bring people closer together in an increasingly tech-driven and digitally based world. Meta Open Arts believes that art has the ability to offer new ways of thinking about ourselves, our communities and the world at large.

Learn more at and @MetaOpenArts on Instagram.

Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance, collaborates with contemporary artists and cultural institutions to experiment and engage with one of the world’s most iconic urban places. Through the Square’s electronic billboards, public plazas, vacant areas and popular venues, and the Alliance’s own online landscape, Times Square Arts invites leading contemporary creators, such as Mel Chin, Tracey Emin, Jeffrey Gibson, Ryan McGinley, Yoko Ono, and Kehinde Wiley, to help the public see Times Square in new ways. Times Square has always been a place of risk, innovation and creativity, and the Arts Program ensures these qualities remain central to the district’s unique identity.

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