[Digital] Fantasies

The Picture and the Portrait
James Lawton

James Lawton is an artist working with machine learning to create unique images and texts that illustrate how we create our digital selves, how others are able to use our data to create a form of us, as well as the veracity and distortion of those creations. He uses datasets that he has created, including self-portraits, journals, fiction, recordings, and other methods. These works address issues of identity, consciousness, self, and perception. A self-portrait method is often used to provide unrestricted, accessible, and emotionally vulnerable data based on a real person. With himself as the primary subject, he then uses that definitive data to create machine learning models whose output portrays a broad and equivocal interpretation of a person, which in turn calls into question how we create and are created by interpretations of data.

The Picture and the Portrait is a five minute video showcasing images and text that were generated by machine learning as part of a master's dissertation project in 2021 at Goldsmiths, University of London. The video displays a type of digital fantasy created by the data we create about ourselves, showing a glimmer of the reality the fantasy is based on, while being swept up in the fantasic dreams of an algorithm consuming data.

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