The Reflective Machine engages with an image praxis I call neural painting—a method of using machine learning convolutional neural networks to algorithmically (and agonistically) manipulate and blend natural world derived style palettes with technical imagery I capture in my compositional journeys around the thematic space of the work. In this series I am exploring the algorithmic retelling of a narrative reflecting on the aesthetic sublime of environmental collapse, the frayed threads of famine, disease, war, “all watched over by machines of loving grace” (Brautigan, 1967), suggesting that opaque mediation enters an illusory world of optimized truths where a picture’s information sources are “not always identical with its subject matter” (Newall, 2011, pp. 61-65). The associated paper (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14702029.2022.2069917) explores the emergence of these themes in terms of a reflective look back at the metaphors of situated praxis found in the Abstract Expressionist painters of the New York School, a time before the ubiquitous computational mediation of creative intention.
Brautigan, R. (1967). All watched over by machines of loving grace. San Francisco: Communication Company.
Newall, M. (2011). What is a picture? Depiction, Realism, Abstraction. Palgrave Macmillan.
I’m lately thinking about how virtuality crosses into materiality through manipulation of contrasts in affective distance between associations. The computational metaphor suggests we have to think of this as a binary problem, presuming an axis of motion. In the extended sculptural installation of The Reflective Machine, I polarize algorithmic production (still algorithmically mediated) against machinic specular(ity) (still autographically reliant) as an illusory vector, pushing one side of the image into the distance of retention, the other into the distance of pretention. We are caught in a middle ground of unpredictable connectedness.