Death Imitates Language

Series, 2016 – ongoing

In the years leading up to ‘Death Imitates Language’, I was trying more and more to be an ‘artist artist’, someone who fitted into the gallery space and the art markets in conventional terms. I had some success, but I also had a sense of sadness about the process. It felt a bit hollow and disconnected from the Net Art which I saw myself as coming out of. For a while, I thought about turning away from the art world and doing what I really enjoyed most, which was programming. While I was in this unsettled period, I was doing a lot of generative graphics, but I was somewhat bored. I felt like the graphics needed a bit more development and direction to add to the randomness created by the programmes.

It was around this time that I saw a video by the programer, philosopher and general provocateur, Vinay Gupta, about algorithms and dating apps. Gupta estimated that Tinder and similar apps were responsible for essentially engineering about 10% of the dates that took place in the countries where the app was used. The idea of a dating app that works ‘too well’ and ends up in a long term relationship was a serious risk for the apps’ business models, or so Gupta argues. Apparently companies decided that for their purposes it was better to use machine learning and AI to engineer the algorithm to bring people together who were likely to feel attraction, but whose relationships were also likely to be volatile. I started thinking about what might happen if a child was conceived in one of these short and sharp relationships. That child’s biology would be, in part, algorithmically determined. The biopolitics of that were quite a lot to get my head around, but it did give me a direction for the graphics project, an idea that breeding aesthetic populations might also provide a way to visualise how machines understand data and ‘create’, and how art might emerge from that process. The work has now gone on for some time; probably longer than a lot of the relationships that gave me the idea in the first place.

A series of works exploring the development of meaning in generative aesthetics using micro feedback and a genetic algorithm. It consists of a website and a series of printed and boxed collage works.

The public website contains an enormous population of speculative works. Each of these works are generated by inheriting sequences of information - a sort of DNA - from their ancestors. These ‘genetic’ codes determine which elements appear in the work and in what form or constellation. The population changes over time by means of subjective ('natural') selection by me: micro feedback or 'likes'. This feedback - combined with visitor statistics and simulated aging - causes the genetic program to mutate and (arguably) improve over time.

When creatures reach their optimal state they are 'frozen' and translated into physical objects. These objects are layered in construction, partly transparent and square. They can be hung and watched from all sides.

Featured in Rhizome's Net Art Anthology