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How AI is being used to popularize South Asian art around the world

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The artistic traditions of communities around the world have been intertwined for centuries. Trade routes allowed materials and designs to travel from one part of the world to another while travelers allowed for the exchange of cultural practices and social norms. Societies around the world have changed because they have interacted with each other. In this sense, we all emerge from a common history. Now these stories are brought to light in WOVENan initiative recently launched by the Bengaluru Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) and Microsoft.

INTERWOVEN is an AI-powered digital platform that expands MAP’s textile collection by using AI technology to search for similar items around the world. MAP has around 2,000 textiles in its collection, spanning the breadth of the Indian subcontinent, ranging from pichvais and kanthas to kalamkaris, brocades, zardozi blankets, bandhani saris and ikkats. Microsoft’s artificial intelligence finds links between these textiles and objects at partner institutions, such as the V&A Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Rietberg in Zurich and Canada’s Royal Ontario Museum. . With each new link, the platform offers a narrative or journey, allowing an investigation into how the art, culture and politics of nations have been intertwined throughout history. “Textiles help you discover the relationships between many regions and cultures,” says Kamini Sawhney, Director of MAP, “In India, our artisans have been able to master the most intricate weaving techniques and they have produced exquisite textiles that have traveled around the world and who have served global economies for centuries.

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Morakuti Picchwai; Unknown; Beginning of the 20th century. This pichwai panel is painted in the typical Nathdwara style and displays a scene of 32 peacocks and peacocks.Courtesy of Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bangalore

Palampore; Unknown; late 19th century. This Kalamkari textile showcases a stylized tree of life motif with floral and geometric shapes.Courtesy of Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bangalore