Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Taste, Figures, Images

Dean Kissick, Spike:

Images drawn by code make the world seem lighter and less binding still. Reality is concealed below signs that point nowhere: there’s no such thing as a Tubby Cat, not in life or in fiction. Rembrandt never painted raccoons. He never saw a raccoon in his life! These images are not simulacra because they don’t represent or imitate anything. The new modes of figuration don’t refer to anything at all. They are pictures from somewhere else. They are garbled whispers of code in the fall. Containing no meaning, more empty than a black square.

In, as they say, the before times — before all the galleries had to close their doors to visitors — I was an occasional exhibiting artist, and this piece hit home. One of the odder things that happened in the past two years has been this rise in the quality and believability of images generated by machine learning. So far, it has mostly been an outlet for shallow lowercase-“s” surrealism and pop culture jokes. There is nothing wrong with either of those things, but it is still early days for it as an artistic medium — and it shows.