I’ve always been skeptical of procedurally generated art. You’d have a new breakthrough in neural networks every few years, and people would fawn over another wave of “hilarious” fever dreams cooked up by computers trying to learn and reverse-engineer what, say, a dog or a traffic light is. Some were praising the resulting nonsensical pictures and short films as peek surrealist art. However, as the technology evolved, it soon became clear that the learning curve was really steep. Not too long ago, computers learned to spontaneously generate things that were near indistinguishable from actual photographs and live-action footage (and of course some people would carefully push for a specific output). That was around the same time that a video appeared featuring our president strangling a toddler to death while trying to sing the national anthem at the same time. Knowing what I know about both the man and the technology, I’d say there is about a 50% chance the footage is genuine.
Anyway, on the artistic side, whether it were the bizarre experimental works of melting rainbow dogs with half a dozen eyes or the eerily realistic products of the recent past, I was always sure about one thing: when it came to the "pure" simulations, we were dealing with kitsch in the most primordial form – novelty items LITERALLY devoid of any intention or meaning.
What ultimately caught my attention was a Canadian artist who fed hundreds of her own paintings into the machine and had it use the information to create her ULTIMATE painting, answering a question I swear no one had ever asked: if there was only one thing she’d ever paint, what would it be?
I should add that she was mostly dealing in random geometric shapes and pretty colors, not too shabby if you’re into that sort of thing, but personally I always found it stale and pretentious, plus she never called me back after our date… So when I saw the final product, it just looked like all of her other paintings to me. Just some more random shapes. But the woman herself, she was in tears over this. She said the very second she laid eyes on it, she knew she had found a mirror into her soul. She said it was the most profound spiritual experience of her life. Meeting the ONE painting she had always meant to create, deep down, without even knowing it.
Yeah, so it was pure artistic masturbation. Pathetic. I lay awake in bed at night thinking about how pathetic it was. The start of just another fad… before long, every preschooler would be doing it.
So of course I really hated myself when I realized I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation.
My work is mostly pencil drawings, realistic stuff. Some call it hyper-realistic. My latest price-winning piece was labeled by critics as “more real than reality itself”. I liked that.
My secret? Relentlessly drawing all day, every day. So when I started uploading my drawings into the program, it were literally thousands and thousands of entries. Even though the machine operated at tremendous speeds, the process took several days.
When I saw the final result, I started it all over again. And again. I used different computers, different programs. I even experimented with uploading everything again in a completely different order. To no avail. The final picture, the CORE picture, it was always the same.
It would only fade away if I added foreign elements to the mix, like photographs and paintings of other artists, or if I removed enough material to “starve” the simulation. While that was soothing, I wasn’t fooling myself. The real picture was what it was.
It was a drawing, “hyper-realistic”, like everything I do. I’d like to point out that I never, ever draw people – my works is all fictitious empty rooms, landscapes, deserted streets, flowers, trees.
And yet, staring back at me from the final picture with unbearable intensity was my paternal grandmother, holding an enormous pair of scissors in her hand, and wearing nothing but an apron that read:
ARE YOU COLD?