Newsletter: Self-Absorbed Face Dance

Self-Absorbed Face Dance is a short video warping through different deformations of my face. It was created using a GAN (a type of generative AI model) trained to reproduce images of me. I moved through the range of output images by moving my body in a live dialogue. The underlying system is the same as the Latent Voyager prototype I shared in the last newsletter.

As I moved, I got lost in the various machinations of my image. When the two eyes took over the image with their multiple pupils, my sense of control over the system started to conflate with a sense of being seen by this ghost of myself.

![AI-generated image by Tim Murray-Browne showing eyes]("Tim Murray-Browne - Self-absorbed Face Dance still image.png")

Those faceless eyes emerge when I stand in the exact right location in the room, lean my shoulders back and hug my arms against my chest with my hands up by my neck. A slight movement and the illusion is lost. The AI is trained to generate realistic still images rather than transitions between images. Blobs of colour shrink and expand into forms. After spending a while with these transitions, the topology of the model starts to be come apparent. Magic begins to solidify into process.

The interactions between AI and the body are part of a broader exploration in my work into the friction between the hard edges of digital data and the more fuzzy edges of reality. Digital interaction lets us do many exciting things. But usually this involves creating a rudimentary versions of ourselves online (profiles, avatars... our online identities). How far do these limited versions of our identity become absorbed into our sense of who we are?

I keep coming back to something I heard Iain McGilchrist say in a lecture at the Institute of Philosophy in 2017:

We're in the process of likening ourselves to the machines with which we need to interact.


I'm planning a public sharing of the Latent Voyager system at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Glasgow at the end of January. For the usual covid reasons, it will be limited capacity with advance tickets to reserve a spot - watch this space for more details.

Tim

Glasgow, 13 Dec 2021

P.S. You may hear the influence of Philip Glass in the video's music. In November, I saw his opera Satyagraha at the ENO in London, which chronicled the life of Gandhi. Mindblowing and exhausting in equal measure. Here's a sample on Spotify.