Photography series, digitally manipulated, 2021
Displayed at Zavitz Gallery, group show Manifold
I am a long-time Photoshop avoider and recently a mushroom forager. I did not anticipate the happenstance merging of these domains, nor the number of parallels and metaphors shared between them.
My ‘artistic practice’ always involves fumbling. I spawn an idea that incessantly rattles around my skull until I find a road to render it tangible- a process which frequently involves layers of messing up and incidental discoveries. This project was a demonstrable instance of erroring my way towards something grander than my rattling.
I sought to collect mushrooms and make spore prints from their underside, later photographing the spore prints to preserve their configurations. In attempting to render the background of my spore photographs a simple black, I discovered Photoshop’s Content-Aware-Fill Filter and accidently applied data from the spore print towards the negative space surrounding them. This resulted in ethereal, dendric trails of Artificial-Intelligence generated pixels attempting to augment the data from my spore. Yeah, my jaw was on the floor.
There exists a rather magical correspondence between Content Aware Fill’s A.I. trajectories and trails made by mycelium (the actual vegetative part of the fungus that mushrooms grow from and spores initiate). Namely- their shared awareness and methods of growth.
For mycelium to produce from spores- kickstarting the web structures of fungus- there must be a minimum of two spores to spur reproduction. Content Aware Fill’s A.I. needs a minimum of two pixels to spur its function; one pixel for the source of visual data you’re drawing from, and one towards which you’re directing its use. Mycelium grows microscopically, one cell at a time, wriggling through the organic matter of its surroundings. Content Aware Filladdresses its movement through an image by analyzing the landscape; one pixel at a time.
In both of these processes, they exhibit a degree of intelligence, insofar as each examine their environment and make informed adjustments regarding how to most fruitfully move through it. Mycelium, aimed at growth in order to persevere opportunities for reproduction, and the A.I. interested in maintaining the composition’s integrity by spawning pixels as it deems most beneficial. I know, pretty meta, right?
The analogy between these two entities is not only notable in their congruency to one another, but moreover for their resemblance of microcosmic-to-macrocosmic structures found within the universe at large. The manner in whichinteractions can convert simple inputs into diverse, intelligible outputs- whether that be molecular, organismal, computational, astronomical, or metaphysical- ultimately all echo one another. Each reaching out into negative space and making decisions on how to approach its unknown.
These compositions contain tiny universes expressing their rules, their conduits, of survival and expansion. I am but a gobsmacked conductor, writing an artist statement as though I made these and they did not make me.