If a strong portrait tells us something about the essence of a person, does a successful generative portrait tell us something about the essence of humanity? This question came to me when experiencing the fascinating beauty of Espen Kluge’s ‘Alternative’ series. Born out of the minor failure to create an interactive vector logo of his own portrait via a java script, the Norwegian visual artist and composer managed to push the potential of his experimental algorithm by feeding a curated selection of sourced photos to it. The result creates something truly unique, infusing abstract geometry with a colourful emotional warmth.
I chose the piece They don’t have this for humans to talk about today, but the series comprises 100 different and delightful ‘alternative’ pieces. What’s really striking about these abstractions of the human face is how inviting they are to the viewer to marvel at their juxtaposition of colour and form. Each manages to make us imagine an own story or emotion behind the figures, which feel both out of this world and familiar. With this specific piece I was really taken by the interplay of lines and the subtle nuances that the shades of pink and purple, yellow and aquamarine, do to help shape defining features like what we can imagine as lips and eyes. I imagined a sense of longing with this figure, as it raises its head upwards, gazing at something we can only imagine or dream about.
As a society, our sense of beauty when it’s objective, often plays with certain geometric configurations when it comes to the face. What I love about these portraits is that while maintaining a certain base of that, it also turns things on its head and offers us a new language on what beauty is and can be. Generative art I feel really has that potential to open us up to new ways of rethinking our old conceptions on what makes something aesthetically powerful and this exercise in ‘de’ and ‘reconstruction’ of those parameters resonated quite strongly with me. To push it broader one can also image this being how a machine could see us and how it can perhaps make us forget certain imperfections we hold onto so strongly and make us delight in both the things that make us unique and similar.