[ISEA2023] Paper: Dorin Cucicov — Mytherrella: an interactive installation hallucinating mythological auroral formations


Short Paper. Theme: AI – Generative Sub Theme: Symbiotic Imaginaries

Up until very recently, mythological tales predominated in the explanation of the polar auroras. Early in the 20th century, efforts to scientifically explain this phenomenon began. Today, we understand that the polar lights are a phenomenon brought on by the solar winds’ interaction with the magnetosphere of the Earth. However, for a long time, this phenomenon inspired vibrant trans-border stories that had a profound impact on local communities.

In our interactive installation, Mytherrella, we aimed at creating a dynamic environment in which scientific data and mythological storytelling unearth new imaginaries about the aurora borealis. The generative video integrated in the installation uses a custom real-time StyleGAN algorithm that continuously samples from a model trained on a large set of all-sky auroral images. This method enables live interaction with the generated video, producing novel auroral formations that are unpredictable while remaining within the bounds of the learned features.

By combining the dataset with a small number of alternative-style images, the diversity of the generated content is increased, creating a divergent effect that reinforces the mythological narrative. We share the technique of interactive video generation as well as the research process behind the creation of the work.

  • Dorin Cucicov is an interactive artist based in Bucharest, Romania. He holds a BA in computer science and an MA in Interactive Technologies in Media and Performance Art. Currently he is a Ph.D. student at the Interdisciplinary School of Doctoral Studies in Bucharest, where he studies emotion recognition from sound. His research focuses on interactive environments, new AI technologies, and how people and machines work together. He is also involved in teaching a Creative Coding lab at the UNATC University in Bucharest. In his works he focuses on the concept of sentient machines and what role emotions play in the human-machine relationship. During the last 3 years he has developed a couple of interactive installations tackling this dualism. He’s also working with sound performances, DIY electronics and live coding.