Be Kind This Day

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As I gaze at this face I cannot help but ponder on what this person thinks and feels. What has brought her to this place? There seems both sadness and joy in her eyes, and understanding too. Her beauty is enriched by the direct nature of her long and steady look. Is it that she hopes to be kind this day? Perhaps she asks that I am kind this day. I search for clues on her face as I do as much with a stranger or with someone I know well and love…

The portrait 'Be Kind This Day' is one of many that will be shown in a new publication 'One Me · One Family' that is planned for release in the first part of 2023. With images of people from across the world, each portrait celebrates a unique individual that will be accompanied by a short line of text that touches upon their thoughts, feelings, and character.

The central focus of the publication is that despite our diversity of appearance, our rich inner worlds so often grapple with the same feelings of sadness, joy, insecurity, and love. My hope is that as we journey from one page to the next we discover our common ground.

One Me · One Family will be a celebration of individuality, and of kinship.

Agency and Exploitation

Until last year I rarely depicted the human form in my work. I have long been concerned with issues surrounding agency and exploitation when it comes to the visual representation of people.

When the human form is depicted and is recognisable, I feel the responsibility of ensuring as best I can that the person whose form is represented is not harmed in any way.

I have similar convictions when it comes to the use of my own creative work. I have not for example worked as a commercial composer as I do not wish for my music to support a game, film, or other media that I believe may cause harm.

Art and photographic representations can easily exploit images of individuals for profit, notoriety, or for the advantage of the artist or photographer. Portraits often exploit the sitter in unanticipated ways, despite their agreeing to having their portrait created. The sitter may be paid for their likeness and its use may be released through a rights arrangement. The problem is that images are often used well beyond the original understanding or agreement of the sitter. The portrait can become an exploitative medium as the sitter’s recognisable form is used to sell goods or services that the sitter does not necessarily wish to be associated with.

My wish to respect the agency of those I work with has led me to focus on representations of the natural world, and more abstract representations of people. My approach with One Me · One Family allows me to include representations of people through the assistance of Artificial Intelligence.

The Use of Assisted AI In Art

With the advent of AI assisted image creation, some of the issues surrounding portraiture that I have expressed above are addressed. When used carefully, it is possible to create original portraits with the assistance of AI that are not associated with a particular individual, but are complex iterations of elements and categories of the human form taken from millions of open source images, combined with complex and sophisticated algorithmic programming that merges elements together. I can use these as starting points in order to further manipulate and develop these forms into more convincing portraits of people. In this way AI as a tool is only one stage of a complex chain of creative actions and decisions that leads to a completed artwork. AI does not make the art as it has no intent. Like any tool, whether it be a pencil or piano, paint or perspective, the tool is not conscious and has no agency of its own. In future, AC (Artificial Consciousness) will be able to make art with or alone, but that time has not yet arrived (visit www.2045.ai for my vision of when it will).

As with any work of art, if I do my work well, the process of achieving the completed piece becomes irrelevant to the person experiencing it. If the art is aesthetically rewarding, thought provoking, and emotionally satisfying, the art potentially leads to positive change within the person experiencing it. They come to think and feel enriched, and at best, changed for the better.

For me, process in art, how art is made, is less important than whether the art moves the mind and heart towards positive outcomes. Stating this as simply as possible: art works well when it encourages us to love.

I had the opportunity of using a living person as the basis for the portrait Be Kind This Day, but I chose instead to use AI as one of the stages of its creation. By doing so, I can focus entirely on what I am trying to express through the manipulation of the image, rather than on issues of agency and rights of a particular individual. As with any creative tool, it is not the tool that should be of concern, but the person using it…

I hope you enjoy Be Kind This Day, not for its process and my use of AI, but for its simple message. The portrait is a means to encourage thoughts, feelings, and acts of kindness. If it does any of these then it has achieved its aim.

The following portraits will also form part of One Me · One Family.