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How Material Came into the Picture (KIKI)


  • Project duration : 26 September 2022 – 25 December 2024
  • Project lead : Isabella Nicka
  • Projekt team member (IMAREAL) : Miriam Landkammer
  • Cooperating partner : FB Artificial Intelligence and Human Interfaces, Univ. Salzburg (Leitung des Projektteils am AIHI: Andreas Uhl)

How Material Came into the Picture

Exploring Cultural Innovations Interdisciplinarily with Artificial Intelligence and DH (KIKI)

In painting and graphic arts of the late Middle Ages, an increased integration of depicted materials (e.g. wood) can be observed in large parts of Europe as an innovative trend. The KIKI project, funded by the Province of Salzburg, uses methods from art history, digital humanities and computer vision to create a basis for tracing the concrete course of this development. By comparing many images (in the sense of distant viewing), it analyses how materials are reflected or artistically processed in the visual media and what functions they fulfil.

What role did representing material properties and surface qualities play in visual communication strategies in the 14th and 15th centuries? Which materials appear more frequently in certain subjects, and what changes and trends can be discerned in the 15th century? Annotation data are needed to analyse the developments and patterns of material representation in medieval painting and graphic art on a broad source basis and to identify individual phenomena. Since the manual generation of such data is very complex and time-consuming, the KIKI subproject at the Department of Artificial Intelligence and Human Interfaces is testing and developing computer vision methods with and without deep learning for the automatic recognition of depicted material. The goal is the creation of larger annotation data pools for future analysis in the field of digital art history.

This will allow factors such as the position and proportion of the image area of the materials to be taken into account, as well as texture comparisons. Subsequently, correlations to specific subjects or geographical, genre or context-specific features canbe analysed. Connections to image annotation data, such as those available in REALonline for people, objects, actions, etc., can also be identified.

In conjunction with qualitative art-historical studies – among others on the Concordantiae Caritatis (Lilienfeld, Stiftsbibliothek, cod. 151) and the Salzburg Missal (Munich, BSB, Clm 15708-15712 ) – KIKI will work out how and by the use of which categories painted surface properties and material textures can best be recorded for art historical analysis. In a further step, a standardisation process for data collection with these developed categories will be created in the form of a guideline to allow for consistent results. Manual annotation of a selected corpus will be performed in the next work package. On the one hand, these annotations provide ground truth for computer vision analyses. Secondly, these annotations shall be analysed using quantitative methods from the digital humanities, in the sense of a distant viewing that allows the comparison of these image elements in many visual sources. The results of the latter – the patterns and peculiarities found in the data material – will in turn form the starting point for further qualitative art historical analyses.

Funded by

Master of Laufen, St Helena finding the true cross (detail), ca. 1440/45, Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum, REALonline 000671

KIKI @ Lange Nacht der Forschung
On May 24, 2024, you can get to know the KIKI project at the "Lange Nacht der Forschung" in Salzburg and take part in the classification of painted wood textures.
KIKI @ darthist in Salzburg
Project presentation at the 27th networking meeting of darthist - Network for Digital Art History in Austria.
News / New Video
KIKI @ lecture series Dazzling Data
A lecture in the series "Dazzling Data. Digital Humanities in Medieval and Early Modern Studies" will feature KIKI. You can now watch the recording on PLUS Uni TV if you were unable to attend in person or via streaming on 27 November 2023.
new publication
Out now: New KIKI-publication
An article by KIKI has been published by Springer Verlag in January 2024: Johannes Schuiki, Miriam Landkammer, Michael Linortner, Isabella Nicka, Andreas Uhl: Towards Using Natural Images of Wood to Retrieve Painterly Depictions of the Wood of Christ’s Cross. In: Gian Luca Foresti, Andrea Fusiello, Edwin Hancock (Hg.): Image Analysis and Processing - ICIAP 2023 Workshops. ICIAP 2023. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 14366. Cham 2024. doi: 10.1007/978-3-031-51026-7_31
News / New Publication
KIKI @ DH 2023 Graz
KIKI will be presented at DH 2023 in Graz in July. An abstract is available on the Zenodo website: Isabella Nicka, Andreas Uhl, Miriam Landkammer, Michael Linortner, Johannes Schuiki: Towards a distant viewing of depicted materials in medieval paintings, in: Digital Humanities 2023. Collaboration as Opportunity (DH2023), Graz, 1–2, doi: 10.5281/zenodo.8107639