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W&L Professor Quoted in NPR Article on Salvador Dalí Elliott King offered his expertise on the authenticity of an AI-generated Dalí voice used for an exhibit at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

King-scaled-600x400 W&L Professor Quoted in NPR Article on Salvador DalíElliott King, associate professor of art history

Elliott King, associate professor of art history at Washington and Lee University, was quoted in a recent NPR article titled “An AI Salvador Dalí will answer any question when called on his famous ‘lobster phone.’

The article focuses on how the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to allow visitors to ask questions of the famed surrealist artist who died in 1989. Named “Ask Dalí,” this new museum installation features a copy of Dalí’s famous Lobster Telephone sculpture which visitors can pick up and ask a question. Dali’s AI-generated voice will respond with an answer using generative AI technology.

A noted Dalí scholar and the current vice president of the International Society for the Study of Surrealism, King was asked how Dalí would feel about the exhibit and the authenticity of the responses provided by the AI technology.

“He was so interested in scientific advancements,” said King in the article. “I think that he would have been really tickled by people talking into this lobster phone.”

King stated that the exhibit’s AI-generated voice works well compared to previous efforts but that there are still inconsistencies in how Dalí is presented. Among them is the use of “hi” when the AI version introduces itself.

“That word sounds so odd coming out of his voice,” King said. “He always said, ‘Bonjour!’ – always the French – even to say goodbye.”

King recently co-curated an exhibition titled “Salvador Dalí: Les Chants de Maldoror,” which ran in the Staniar Gallery from Jan. 11 through Feb. 8 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Surrealist Manifesto. He is the author of two books, “Dalí, Surrealism, and Cinema” and “Radical Dreams: Surrealism, Counterculture, Resistance.” The latter was co-edited with Abigail Susik and shortlisted for the Modernist Studies Association’s Edition, Anthology, or Essay Collection Book Prize for 2023.

King has been a member of the W&L faculty since 2012. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in art history from the University of Denver, a Master of Arts in history of art from the Courtauld Institute of Art (U.K.) and a Ph.D. in art history and theory from the University of Essex (U.K.).

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