[ISEA2020] Paper: Nicole De Brabandere — Machine Generated ‘Portraits’ as Impersonal Gestures

Abstract (short paper)

Keywords: Artificial Intelligence, Photography, Gesture, Personhood, Learning Algorithms, Animation, Sentience

This paper considers the Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) renderings from the website “This Person Does Not Exist” (TPDNE), published in early 2019, which are high resolution images that are often indistinguishable from actual photographs. While learning algorithms are widely critiqued for amplifying bias and hierarchy within already biased data sets, the learning algorithm that generates the TPDNE images proposes an alternative potential. The TPDNE image makes an opening to experience the co-composition of personhood and photographic media. What is at play in the TPDNE image is not the replacement of a human intelligence for an artificial one, but a reconstitution of the photographic portrait as a spacetime of generative encounter. This encounter both exposes and dampens the way the photographic image is enmeshed in subjective affects and agencies aligned with a human-centered concept of personhood, capture and extraction. In this paper, the TPDNE portrait is figured as a gestural opening to problematize such agencies as they are reconfigured in computational spacetime. The TPDNE image performs the possibility of a sense transformation that allows for imagining new and heterogeneously co-constituted subjectivities that traverse registers of representation, technology and corporeality.

  • Nicole De Brabandere is currently a visiting researcher at McGill University (Montreal, Canada), working at the intersection of research-creation, experimental media practice and embodiment. She is the author of articles including “Experimenting with Affect across Drawing and Choreography” (Body & Society, 2016) and “Drawing Light: Gesture and suspense in the weave” (NECSUS Journal 2019). Current projects include “Consistencies of Care: Machine, Co-presence and Event in Industrial Milk Production” and “Animating Personhood in the A.I. Renderings of ‘This Person Does Not Exist’”.