Hello Jenni, please share with us how you became intermeshed with the digital sphere, and where you learned to use the technologies you do so proficiently?
You could say that the journey among digital art started as I first time found paint on windows 95. More of seriously later on, as the internet became available for regular households, freeing the exploration to create with new programs and learn about art online. For my whole life I’ve been creating and trying out all kinds of techniques; Acrylics, ink, clay, watercolour, markers, oils, pulp and the list goes one, you name it. As home computers, scanner and internet came available for regular household when I was a teenager, I found digital art. The journey started by creating pieces with mouse, took couple years to get my very first tiny tiny wacom which served me well for years. Ever since that I’ve been creating digital art, learning everything needed from internet.
Please do share with us how you choose working with Generative Adversarial Networks as a tool for creative expression specifically, and what about it makes it preferable over “traditional” means.
GAN became part of my life about year ago, the possibilities that AI has within completely twisted my mind and world upside down, it filled a gab that I had been looking for my whole life. Finding my own voice in my art have been a life long journey, I have been creating with all possible traditional mediums; from ink to clay and later on as computers came I’ve also tried out everything between coding to 3D animation. When creating It always felt like something was missing and what I did wasn’t complete, something was always missing no matter how many styles and techniques I tried. Then one day around the same time I found NFTs I stumbled across artist called “Thor Elias” work on Instagram. I was struck with lighting of excitement and was able to think only; “What is this, how he does this, what technique it this, I LOVE IT!”. That moment on I started fierce research what is the technique, which led me to AI-art & GAN, then I knew I had found the missing piece I had been looking for my whole life. This way I’m able to combine my passions in one by finding GAN; Art, technology and mind. They create the heart of my craft.
For me GAN is a tool, it works as a paint and inspiration for my pieces. We humans are emotional animals, we limit our imagination to things we have experienced in our lives. By adding machine, that has no emotional limitations of its own, as a part of my work, I am able to create things I could have never been able to think on my own. GAN is as a canvas of unlimited imagination. What makes every GAN piece unique, what is the story behind creativity and art? If a million people would be given the same image that was generated with AI and told what they see in it and to create their own representation of it, the end result would be a million different pieces. This is cause we don’t experience and see things how they actually are, but trough our own experience we have lived and gone trough life, that’s how we have become who we are today. Every creation is a piece of me and my heart combined with the imaginary boosted and created by help of machine.
Does the idea that A.I. derived creativity may eventually displace human necessity trouble you, why or why not?
Humans have always been afraid of everything new, also afraid that something will one day take their purpose of life away. That’s why machines and machine learning has always been an alien and a threat to be afraid of. Negative thinking and being alert has been the vital force of the survival of humankind, it’s coded in our genes, but we can learn to be aware of that in us and notch up the curious side of ourselves, start to learn to see all the possibilities everything new could bring within. They said that the robots will take all the jobs, what happened? Only the crippling repeating work were taken away, and thousands of new more exciting and innovative job opportunities were created.
And what about internet? Technology leaps forward so fast constantly that it’s impossible to keep with it all the time, new and new branches of innovation created every second that create their own branches and so on. So I could only say that I am so excited what new and curious things A.I. will bring within. To think in the end, a piece of art created by robot, human or even the painting elephant from youtube, oneself creates the meaning in art, and that is something A.I. can never replace.
Your work’s scale is large in comparison to proprietary GAN used for experimental test cases. On average how long does it take to produce one of your images?
This is something I’ve been trying to figure out myself too, I have no clue the exact time. All I can say days to weeks? My process start wither from creating GAN or and idea I have in my head where I create pieces with GAN, 90% of the time the idea is fired up by GAN as it works as my muse. Some days I might just generate GAN pieces for whole day until I get something I like or something that inspires me. Then I start twist, crop, sequel the piece/pieces what I see in my vision, from that I start paint over digitally to bring imagination alive.
The creation has always a piece of me in it, since painting my own vision in the piece bring the meaning for it, making it something only the person creating it so be able to do. As I wrote earlier, what we see in abstract GAN generated pictures is something we interpret trough what we have experiences in our lives, there for we paint ourselves in all the creations we do. Counting the timeframe how long creating one piece is impossible also cause sometimes I create GAN piece, the leave it be for months while subconscious keep working on it. One day as I stumble across it again and the vision is complete, you can’t hurry the creativity.
Did it take long to train your network? And do you create your own data sets? If so, what of this process do you find the most complicated or misunderstood by outsiders?
For my pieces I use Artbreeder, it’s an online program that is free to use for everyone. I’ve leaned and tried out coding, it were something very hard for me always to grasp on and only learnt the basics no matter how many times I started learn the courses over and over again. Kept constantly falling asleep while learning, as it’s nature of being just text and numbers lacking the visual stimulus my heart is yearning for as I create. It has been a problem for me ever since I was a kid, was only able to stay awake in school only in classes where they showed images or in classes where you had to do something in practice.
When I found that there’s online programs you can create GAN with, I was so stunned and amazed! It was a new fantastic possibility to explore world created by code, forever grateful the creators of these sites. I’ve also tried RunwayML and VQ+CLIP, but always returned the Artbreeder. Thing I love most in it, is that in some tabs there is no possibility to add your own genes, which will lead the result be complete mystery every time. You can never be bored to it, recommend everyone to try it out, it’s fantastic!
There’s constantly coming new amazing GAN programs available online which is very exciting, want to try them all out. If one day I find something better than Artbreeder, I will take it also to be part of my creative process. A dream is one day, as machines get even better and faster, to create own GAN app with a coder. GAN works as a paint and tool for me, as long as the unpredictable and intriguing machine created shapes and surfaces keep the imagination run wild, data set or code can evolve and change to infinity!
Many are having discussions about the hands off nature of self-generative art, some claiming that it doesn’t require communicable skill, where as others say that decision and curation play a vital role in output. What are your views on the hands off quality of “self-generating” art? Is it possible that by this method artistic voice can become lost?
It is possible, at the same time we’re still in so beginning with GAN created art. I believe as time goes forward and more and more artist that put their art in the works start to differ and find their own voice when creating. We’re all constantly evolving and experimenting with the artistic craft we create. For me and those who know who they are, have found their voices and love what they do, there’s no worry that they would lose their voice, we create ourselves on canvas in the form of art.
With the arising norm where NFT’s have become the art form of choice for game worlds (be these through item purchases, or for clothing mods on avatars), but now also higher art, what are your thoughts about NFT’s as fine art? Can all NFT’s be called fine art if they are priced highly enough? If not, what in your view defines fine art as higher art?
NFT itself isn’t a style of art, it’s a name for a unique unit of data stored to blockchain. With NFTs we only store a proof or ownership or a certification, validating who is the owner of a piece. Art is art no matter if it is certificated with a piece of paper, a NFT or just sold on the street.
What do you think the future of digital art will be and how far can this seemingly boundless medium be pushed? Do you think we have reached in any way its imaginative limits?
All I can say is, it can evolve to infinity, future can bring anything within. Ten years ago you couldn’t imagine there will be thing called GAN and all the possibilities it can do, even our imagination is limited to even imagine what is possible 10 or even 5 years forward. So exiting times to be alive, future here we come.
All images with courtesy of Jenni Pasanen