Interview with Van Arman on Reflection

An interview with Redlion News

REDLION NEWS: What was the pivotal moment or inspiration behind 'Reflection,' and how did it influence the direction and concept of this collection?

PVA: Have been calling my robot’s process “feedback” for a long time. But I wanted a better way to communicate about what’s actually going on, and to make an artwork that’s really representative of what I’m exploring with artificial creativity.  Then in talking with friends, specifically Ezra (aka Shibboleth), realized “Reflection” is a perfect way to put this forward… that when my robots use feedback loops, what they’re doing is reflecting on the creation process, like a painter stepping back from the canvas. So this charged me up to make a series that can serve as a capsule of this approach, which I call “Reflective AI.”.

REDLION NEWS: Can you describe how the Reflective AI interacts with your robotic painting system during the creation of each piece? How do feedback loops and multimodal mark-making contribute to the 'thinking' process of the AI?

PVA: Like a human painter, the robot is constantly looking at what it is painting, and based on the marks that are developing on the canvas, it decides on what the next marks should be. It does this both on a stroke by stroke basis, as well as periodically making larger decisions to add composition, or contrast, or complementary colors. Painter Paul Klee described the artistic process as a creative feedback loop where an artist makes a mark on the canvas, analyzes the mark, and uses the analysis to make the next mark, over and over again, in a creative feedback loop. My robots do exactly that. I think of it as a synthetic embodiment of an artist’s creative process.

REDLION NEWS: The collection delves into themes of transhumanism, AI, and physicality. How do you see 'Reflection' contributing to the broader conversation about the role of AI in art and society?

PVA: Yeah- Nothing is more interesting than wondering where our consciousness comes from or what it even is. And it is just as interesting to ask ourselves what makes us human. The way I explore these questions is by reflecting on my own creativity and trying to replicate it in code. One of the meanings of the title Reflection is that this whole process is my reflection on my own creative process. I am trying to get at the source of creation.

REDLION NEWS: With 'Reflection' setting a new direction in generative AI art, what do you envision for the future of AI and robotics in the artistic process? How can artists continue to push the boundaries of creativity using technology?

PVA: Most interesting thing happening in AI Art are artists coming up with cool pipelines where they start with their own body of work, put it into Stable Diffusion, then take the results and run another AI Filter on it, then use that as input to another AI process, until something unique emerges at the end of their pipeline.

I hope that other artists see Reflection and realize that these pipelines can use AI in between each step to get profoundly better results.

For example, maybe an artist’s first step uses Stable Diffusion to create 100,000 images from their body of work. Wouldn’t it be cool if they then had a sentiment analyzer look through those 100,000 automatically and pick the 10 most emotional pieces, and then pass those 10 onto the next step in the pipeline. And between each other step AI can do some other kind of analysis. In this way the AI will be reflecting on its own outputs, like a human, and the results will be profoundly better.

I also hope this collection can be a push in a new direction for long-form generative art. The entire process from the moment I turn on the robot until the final onchain output is a single long-form generative process. The final artworks are fully digital, but I hope some might find it interesting that they integrate inputs from a nondeterministic physical process. Operator was pushing in this direction with Human Unreadable, integrating physical dance into their generative outputs, and Reflection I think goes a step further by making the entire physical and digital process fully generative. I’m interested in what kind of pure, non-deterministic emergence can be found in processes like this.

REDLION NEWS: As an artist, what does the evolution of crypto art and NFTs mean to you personally and professionally?

PVA: CryptoArt has been everything to me. Before cryptoArt, I spent about 15 years in obscurity. Got a bunch of critical success with awards and was often featured in media pieces, but I just didn’t have an audience that thought AI art was interesting. The opposite actually; I was often uninvited from shows when they realized a robot was involved as there was an even stronger aversion to AI art than there is today. CryptoArt collectors, however, love AI art, even more so generative art. So cryptoArt was me finding an audience and being able to share my work on a much larger scale.