ICARUS REACHES THE WORMHOLE: You are alone and it’s the end of the world

This current project continues my long-standing goal of integrating art and technology.

The two aspects are:

  1. Taking advantage of the latest research in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to engage the computer as an active creative partner. This approach has historical genesis in the earliest computer art, in which artists wrote algorithms on punch cards and waited over night to see what would be generated, but uses the latest tools and processing power inconceivable to those early creators when they began exploring this field. 
  2. Exploring manifestations of the digital work across dimensions and media. The output of the AI processes are inspiration for digital video work, 2D analog pastel and painted pieces, 3D digital models–used for video works and eventual incarnation as glass pieces and inflatables. An AR app using the 3D models with texture maps from the 2D analog works. I am also interested in potential VR and 3D-printed possibilities.

I am started work on this project at a residency at Mass MoCA and will continue in November at MovingLab residency in Venice, IT.

For more information scroll past images below.




Example images sets: The first set (comprised of images from my own art) is the starting point. The GAN (general adversarial network) algorithm then enacts a kind of tug of war between these initial images and the second set–of airplanes. The goal of the algorithm is to train itself to create new images that could pass as part of the second set. It doesn’t quite succeed but in the process it makes images I never would have composed on my own that have aspects of both image sets.


The GAN results are interesting but vague and low-res. I used output like that above as inspiration for pastel drawings–a way to render the results with analog tools.


Similar to the process with the pastels, I used the outputs above (as well as some other AI processes using only a single set of images) as inspiration–another way to render the results with analog tools. I started with acrylic on paper but moved to oil on canvas.


Imagining the main objects in the drawings and paintings as 3D sculptures. These will be used to inform the creation of glass sculptures, as well as in video and AR applications–and potentially 3D-printing.


The project, entitled “Icarus Reaches the Wormhole: You are alone and it’s the end of the world” draws conceptually on Carl Jung’s early writings on UFOs as a way to visually examine the shockingly widespread societal belief in conspiracy theories, “fake news,” and alarming real current events that seem unbelievable in both the US and Europe, from Trump’s Twitter tirades and connections to foreign powers, to Brexit.  

Back in the 1960s, Jung called UFOs “technological and salvationist fantasies;” “symbols of unconscious psychic projections.” In keeping with this interpretation of salvation coming from things appearing in the sky–or, in the case of Icarus, rising up to escape into the sky–I have been creating sky-born entities, working with an alpha version of software by an AI company that uses machine learning with GAN (general adversarial networks) and other image-creation algorithm classes to create still images and time-based work.

Using image sets that include my own artwork images, as well as groups of objects that have been in my work for decades (airplanes, rockets, lighthouses, boats, highways, etc.), I have used this computationally intensive process to make new compositions. These computer-generated works are serving in turn as inspiration for more digital and analog works in a variety of dimensions and media.

In all these works I strive to achieve what Jean-Michel Jarre has described in trying to pinpoint what he likes about both art and music: “a mixture of joy and melancholia, a kind of dark and sunny side; …a kind of depressive despair but with hope and joy mixed altogether.”