Artist Pinar Demirdag: The Time of AI and Consciousness Has Arrived
Explorations of AI Art — Episode 23
"As a visual artist, I interpret these recursive AI outcomes as humanity’s most successful attempt to visualize the invisible." Pinar Seyhan Demirdag
[Fig.1] Shells, AI-generated image, credit: Pinar&Viola
With a master degree in Design and Applied Arts from the The Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, she boasts prestigious collaborations, contributing with her nonconformist ideas and fresh perspectives to the brand value of several worldwide leading brands, such as Google, Airbnb, IKEA, Koché, Nike, Adidas, and Redbull.
Her work sits at the intersection of art, design and fashion, and is imbued with optimism and positivity. Her artistic practice invites us to calm down and reflect on concepts like unconditional love and peace, while creating alternative realities of the future.
Since the beginning of 2020, Pinar immersed herself in a new exciting journey that led her to establish Seyhan Lee, a production company and artistic development which aims to reinvent storytelling through the application of AI and other technologies. The focus is to design and bring to life stories visually relevant and socially significant, and work closely with the film industry, as well as with music, fashion, live performance, and motion graphics.
The latest developments in deep learning and computer vision have particularly fascinated Pinar. Indeed, her interest for technology goes hand in hand with the effort of bringing a new vision that considers the duality of our nature. Her intention is to rise questions about the relationship between science and emotions, and how we can use technology to expand our creativity and consciousness.
In 2018, the collaboration with Google engineer Alexander Mordvintsev, the creator of DeepDream, has further strengthened the interest of incorporating new technologies in the artistic practice, giving life to Infinite Patterns. The result of this partnership has been defined by Elisabeth Callot, Program Manager at Google Arts and Culture Lab in Paris, a beautiful chaos with amazing patterns and full of colors, very beautiful.
After creating the world's first holographic catwalk for a virtual fashion line during Amsterdam fashion week, Pinar has brought machine learning on the catwalks of brands like GANNI, and started to follow several projects that involve AI with the goal to carry it into the film business.
When we were planning this interview, Pinar told me that she finds tech-art irrelevant if not related somehow to consciousness. I thought this was intriguing, as consciousness is largely debated, and when it comes to Artificial Intelligence the discussion takes an interesting shift.
Pinar sees technology and AI as a progress of men, but most importantly as an instrument to embrace the metaphysical in the collective consciousness, bringing back humans to the origin of life through visual fantasy.
I found that the search for spiritual elevation and sacredness through technology is something unusual, but it suits very well an artist like Pinar who is a very good example of strong expressiveness and divergent thinking. Other artists have spoken about AI in their art practice as a sort of magic force that pushes them to ask the big questions about life. With Pinar, we take a step further and we move to an unexplored territory that I want to share with you.
[Fig. 2] Butterflies, AI-generated image, credit: Pinar&Viola
What does AI represent for you and why have you decided to embrace it in your work?
AI and ML are nothing but a high computation power. Even though its glamorous name makes it sound something more than it is, at the end of the day, when talking about artificial intelligence we are talking about a high processing algorithm.
I believe there is a lot of misunderstanding around AI. Humans still did not fully wake up to their full potential, their greatness, and their power. That is the reason why they choose to glorify the other, the AI, more than they glorify themselves, and this is a big problem.
I have always been fascinated by technology. Not with the very technology itself but how it can help me flourish my creativity. Technology has never been a solution for me. It always remained a tool, and this is what AI represents for me, a tool.
AI visual technologies, movies, and pictures made with machine learning look like nothing else. The outcome of machine iterations is dramatically different from the way we perceive the world as human beings. The reason behind this is because we are 3-dimensional creatures who have a linear understanding of our perceived reality. However, we know from quantum physics, mysticism, and out-of-body experiences that what we perceive is only a fraction of our reality. During our sleep and under the influence of DMT, we get to dip our toes into that weirdly wonderful non-linear world.
Artificial neural networks have a non-linear and recursive architecture just like what we see in out-of-body experiences. That is the reason why, as a visual artist, I interpret these recursive AI outcomes as humanity’s most successful attempt to visualize the invisible.
Around the same time I was introduced to AI, I started an intense training with a spiritual master to liberate myself from my deepest fears. As a result of that work, I concluded that spirituality is the highest form of human experience. I wish to communicate this in my AI works, as in my opinion, no other technology expresses the invisible world better than artificial neural networks.
Extremely. I have been introduced to AI visual technologies for the first time in 2017 at Google Arts & Culture Lab in Paris as a result of a miracle-like synchronicity. The head of Google A&C realized that Pinar&Viola body of work looked extremely similar to their AI feature visualization experiments at Google Brain Lab in Zurich, which can be seen at this link.
It was definitely a life-changing moment for me. Imagine you build a 10-year signature as a visual artist and one day you find yourself at the AI lab of the world’s biggest tech company where they tell you that the way AI visualizes the world looks like what you have been doing for the last 10 years…
[Fig. 3] Just because it is artificial it does not mean it cannot love - Papillons, AI+ oil painting, 120x120cm. credit: Pinar&Viola
My eyes rolled out of my skull and it took me some time to truly understand the meaning behind this discovery. At Pinar&Viola, I have always been the one who was more inclined towards technology. So in our partnership, it was more me who jump started projects involving AI.
I realize there is so much fear around artificial intelligence. Like I mentioned earlier, it is due to humanity’s lack of self-confidence. As humans fear AI, they end up creating content that will be feared. Take the example of DeepFake, the algorithm which facilitates replicating a person and making them say/do things they would normally never do. Guess which two professions were the earliest adopters of Deep Fake? Porn and politics! That is the reason why I decided to create a work that undoes this black magic.
Every day my head is busy thinking about how I can create culturally relevant and socially significant content with AI. How can I bring data and emotion together, how can I move people emotionally with AI, how can I contribute to good AI with conscious work?
When I first listened to the song, I saw panspermia, the scientific hypothesis which claims that human DNA evolved from alien DNA delivered to earth through an asteroid crash, billions of years ago. To be able to visualize this, we created datasets on different topics. Microcosm, the macrocosm, underwater sea creatures, evolution, growth, reptiles, apes, mars, satellites, and so on.
For the underwater sea creatures we trained the machine with a dataset of 45.000 images that we found online. For this, even though the download happened automatically, in the end we needed to clean 45.000 images one by one, by hand, to make sure we did not have a lobster leg hanging from a guy’s mouth in our deep-sea alien-looking visual sequence.
Also, we sampled the style of the macrocosm, including celestial bodies, nebulae, stars, and applied it on the bacteria world, which resulted in a visual sequence of macrocosm style applied on the microcosm world. For me, this is super exciting because I have been educating myself in mysticism and in the Unified Theory. Both of them show us an alternative approach to our current linear understanding of reality, and these visual sequences helped me visualize what I have been learning in both teachings.
Absolutely. Pinar&Viola started 12 years ago with the pledge between Viola and me that we would dedicate our creativity to the highest good of all that exists and does not exist. During our partnership, we mostly used the power and charm of visuals to lure people into our stories of a healthier, unified, and conscious world. We did this through our artworks on various mediums: from stained glass to porcelain, from the hologram to AI, and from digital painting to photographic collages. Meanwhile, we regularly did brand partnerships with the world’s leading brands to diffuse our positive ideology through their excessive distribution channels and networks. People we partnered with include Google, Airbnb, Nike, IKEA, Adidas, etc.
Crises, while bringing chaos energy, they also yield the creation of new ventures. My parents are business people, I learned from them that during a crisis, money changes hands because when faced with unprecedented times, people want unprecedented new things. The COVID19 crisis helped me calm down, get my head together, and finally, start a new venture I have been forming in my head for a year.
Parallel to my Pinar&Viola artistic practice, I found a new production company, called Seyhan Lee, where, with a team of the world’s best creative engineers and neural artists, we are creating visual sequences for the film industry. This is extremely exciting for me because I realized that AI will be the next frontier in the motion pictures industry, and sooner or later someone will be the bridge between the scientific-paper lever cutting edge AI world with the film industry and become the new Pixar of AI.
Thanks to the quarantine, I found the headspace on how to become that bridge. I partnered with a new business partner, founded Seyhan Lee and we are currently working on several projects where we carry AI into the world of film, music, advertising, and fashion.
This may come as an unexpected answer but the overload of digital content post-covid opened my eyes to something I refused to see earlier. I can safely confess that up until a month ago, I was chasing small battles while losing the war. Meaning, I was losing so much time posting social media content that I was sacrificing my valuable time to create impactful projects. These times helped me see that an action is far more powerful than a thousand words. As a result, I paused, or say slowed down, my social media presence to focus on my current and future projects.
But to answer your question, yes it did start new and interesting conversations between my networks and I. Coming from a background of design and visual arts, all the work I have done with AI is made in collaboration with a hyper-talented neural artist. So how come this visual artist, with no programming background, became an AI art opinion leader? I believe it is because I am not looking at AI from a technology perspective but from social science, storytelling, and consciousness perspective. I am an avid reader and a very fast learner. In 2 years, I must have read over 15 books on AI and its correlation with art, policy, products, quantum mechanics, and the future.
I think the most interesting part of being a human is our capacity to interpret, to dream, and to imagine. This is the part I am the most fascinated with AI. How can I apply my knowledge library based on archeology, alchemy, mysticism, symbolism, philosophy and spirituality on AI to create modern-day science fiction for visual industries that shape our everyday lives?We are in the age of Aquarius, this is the age of consciousness and the age of AI: the ones who combine the mind and the spirit will be creating the future.
During our partnership with Google Arts & Culture, the inventor of Deep Dream, Alexander Mordvintsev, created a simple tool for us to play with. We curated the input and the iteration process, that’s how we made never before seen mouth-watering beautiful fashion patterns.
[Fig. 4] Google Lab AI pattern samples vs Pinar&Viola fashion prints
We were first experimenting with nature, animals, butterflies, shells, and later with food, but the true surprise came the moment when we started playing with the geometrical archetypes behind our perceived reality. I am fascinated with the fact that our lungs have the same pattern as the branches of a tree and with lightning. You discover the same Fibonacci sequence in the eye of a storm, in ferns, in pine cones, in the pineal gland, in the legs of an octopus and in the heart of a sunflower. So we started experimenting with these shapes as input.
For example, when we placed a Buckminster carbon molecule (called buckminsterfullerene) as input, at one go it gave us a snake skin as output, and a pattern made with turtles in another. In another example, when we placed DNA and nautilus as an input, it created the same output. Another time, when we placed a Tantric yantra as an input, the machine gave us back a pattern that looked like a Peruvian carpet.
[Fig. 5] DNA, AI-generated image, credit: Pinar&Viola
[Fig. 6] Yantra, AI-generated image, credit: Pinar&Viola
[Fig. 7] Cell, AI-generated image, credit: Pinar&Viola
For me, to be able to co-create with AI, and prove the geometrical archetypes that construct our reality, is fascinating.
AI becomes what you feed it with. It is like a child, but in this case, data is its food.
Lack of nurture and guidance creates broken children. Hence, the way one would nurture a child, we need to nurture AI and own the destiny we created. Great minds created AI, hence it needs to be guided by other great minds.
I believe that when working with AI, we need to accentuate, lean in, more than ever, on what makes us different from the machine: our emotional selves. Let’s see AI for what it is, an assistant, a tool. Over-fascination with the machine has the danger of creating a robotized society where all the decisions are based on numbers and not emotions.
Among all practices, Art has infinite freedom in its expression. I invite all the artists and creators working with AI to wake up to their power. We are the ones who inspire others with our works. Let’s make positive content, good AI, let’s unite the spirit with the mind, to inspire others to use this hyper-powerful algorithm assistant to help us find solutions for a more prosperous version of our reality.
As I mentioned above, these days my only focus is Seyhan Lee, the new AI production company I recently founded with my new partner. Currently, we are producing an American short movie and getting prepared to create sequences for a European documentary on the subconsciousness. Meanwhile working on a series of super exciting commercial creativity that I look forward to sharing with you once they are done.
Even though we did not come out publicly yet, we are getting a lot of traction. If you are a neural artist or creative engineer working with AI, please know that we are always looking for more talents to work with.∎
To follow Pinar Seyhan Demirdag:
About the author: Beth Jochim is the Creative AI Lead at Libre AI, and Director and Co-Founder at Cueva Gallery. She works at the intersection of technology and arts. She is actively involved in different activities that aim to democratize the field of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, bringing the benefits of AI/ML to a larger audience. Connect whit Beth in LinkedIn or Twitter.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.