Adventures in AI Self-Custody

Newsletter on 17 February 2023
Work-in-progress preview of SELF ABSORBED by Tim Murray-Browne. A woman stands in front of a large video wall striking a pose with her arms. On the video wall is a 3D render of a distorted male face.


Interactive choreo-audio-visual installation
Tim Murray-Browne


Is AI simply the next chapter of extractive capitalism? It appropriates human creativity, displacing those it learns from. It systematises prejudicial biases. It takes our identities, averages them and pretends this homogenised human model is somehow representative of us. It’s scary.

I learnt to build AI models because I wanted to fall in love with AI, to see it as a collaborator in human agency, to be excited rather than afraid.

I didn’t want to train them on the creative work of others and dissolve my individuality into a pool. So I trained them on me.

In the safety of my studio, I gave them everything: every photo I’d taken, every sound recorded. I danced for them so they could understand my movement and let me move my body to explore inside them. This isn’t a ‘big data’ model generalising across populations. It’s a bespoke model of a single individual’s digital footprint. Little data.

Taking custody of my own data and my own models, I felt a freedom from AI’s homogenising force. Instead, we both ended up somewhere much weirder.

Work-in-progress preview of SELF ABSORBED by Tim Murray-Browne. An AI render of a space that looks like a graveyard with trees in the centre of the image, with a tunnel-like warping effect around it to make it seem far away.

The models create a simulacrum haunted by ghosts of my past: beaches, trees, 35mm self-portraits of my teenage self. But I was confronted by the uncanny juxtaposition of intimacy and alienness. I’m wandering through the meeting of my own subconscious dreamworld with the AI’s mechanical hallucinations.

I felt like the models themselves had been freed from the rigorous squeezing we apply to make them functional.

It’s a self-portrait, but I’m not sure if the subject is me or them.

Work-in-progress preview of SELF ABSORBED by Tim Murray-Browne. A highly distorted AI render of a human face.

Montreal, 17 Feb 2023

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