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Special Project

Special Project
From the 16th Annual Shorty Awards

How to See Like a Machine: How artists are using and confronting AI

Silver Honor in Documentary


This year AI and machine learning were essential topics of public conversation. As a museum that has always had new ideas at the center of its mission, MoMA had a role to play in educating the public on these topics and we wanted to enter the conversation online via quality storytelling. We harnessed the museum's collection to create a documentary on how artists are using and confronting AI. We wanted to capture different perspectives, both the optimistic and pessimistic, via interviews with artists, scholars, and curators. We wanted to reach new audiences with this video, those who don't normally associate these debates on technology with museums and art history. This short documentary aimed to be accessible, easy-to-understand, nuanced, and engaging that would offer an entry point and deeper perspective on this pressing topic. This video also sought to give viewers online a behind-the-scenes understanding of the complexity behind Refik Anadol's Unsupervised, a much-discussed and debated piece on view at MoMA when this video published.

Strategy and Execution

We decided to release this video as part of our successful How to See series on our free, educational YouTube channel, embed it on MoMA Magazine, the museum's online publishing platform, and release excerpts for MoMA's Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. The How to See series is a longstanding series on our YouTube channel featuring short documentary-style videos on a theme that teach art history in an accessible way. We told this story creatively and very intentionally. We used the tools discussed in the video (like all the AI image generators) for comical or storytelling effect. We also made sure to include opinions from artists as well as curators and scholar Kate Crawford to show a range of perspectives that would lend nuance to the arguments made in the video. While there are explainers and video essays online, we aimed to make a video that stood out from the rest, with high production value, polished cinematography, complex storytelling, and by embracing the compelling visuals of both Trevor Paglen and Refik Anadol's work. We hired a composer to write a unique, electronic score for the project, and his contribution added a crucial emotional and artistic layer to the storytelling.


As of December 31, 2024, on YouTube this video has garnered 6.7M impressions, 389.6K views (371.4K more than usual), 25.6K hours of watch time (24.8K more than usual), and 6.7K new subscribers for our channel. The average view duration is 3:56, 2:07 more than usual for our channel. Nine months since its release, it still regularly receives an average of 2K views a week, proving its sustained, evergreen interest and value. It received 11K likes and, most astonishing, 358 comments. Beyond the very high viewership, the comments section is a huge success. The comments are insightful and chart the range of public responses to AI, with many commenters responding to one another, forging conversation and debate. This was our top performing video of the year and our 20th most popular video in the history of our channel, which began in 2006. On March 27, 2023 we had our top day of performance with 16,961 new viewers watching the video. Between the new viewer rates and the number of viewers who have chosen to subscribe to the channel due to this single video, we've reached new audiences with this video, an exciting success based on our goals.


Video for How to See Like a Machine: How artists are using and confronting AI

Entrant Company / Organization Name

The Museum of Modern Art


Entry Credits