The last three years, I’ve been on a research journey exploring how I can use AI within my work. There’s the dance performances of Sonified Body, the film Self-Absorbed Face Dance, the interactive installation Latent Voyage.
Each of these prototypes has been a test of the technical possibilities to get a sense of what AI feels like as a medium. Various stories have emerged: digital embodiment, the grand appropriator of human creation, feelings of belonging, loss of self, domestication.
Rather than try to merge every idea I’ve ever had into a single megawork (my habit and downfall), I’m feeling each story should be its own work.
The first is, I think, called SELF ABSORBED. This is a story about what AI takes from the world in order to manifest its magic.
When playing with AI models, my instinct has always been to train it on myself. First, how my body moves. Then, the 50,000 or so photos I’ve taken. Currently, I’m training a model on all the sound I’ve authored in some way.
This impulse comes from a desire to express myself through the models. Technology is but other people’s ideas. Creative technology makes it too easy to confuse expression baked into the system with that of our own. Reckoning with this issue is central all of my work, right back to my PhD thesis 11 years ago.
What emerges from these self-trained AI models is, inevitably I guess, a kind of self-portrait. Not just images resembling me, but images that resemble what I see, what I choose to photograph.
Yet even though I claim authorship, and it’s a portrait of me, I’m not sure it’s really a self-portrait at all. A self-portrait reveals how I see myself. This is an AI I’ve instructed to make my portrait, and it’s as much a portrait of the model as it is of me. In the strange reflection looking back at me I’m able to feel the weirdness of of how AI sees.
Next week, I’ll continue this story with an interlude on artistic complicity in the propaganda battle being fought over the ethics of AI appropriation.
Montreal, 3 Feb 2023
PS If you're in Monteral, on Tuesday I'll be giving a talk How to stay a human when you dance with a machine at Concordia University as part of my artist residency with the LePARC and Speculative Life research clusters.