Kate Vass Galerie is glad of having the chance to learn more who and what stands behind ‘Dark Fractures’, a Berlin-based studio ‘meditating on ecology and generative arts’. In our short interview today with the founder and creative mind – Feileacan McCormick.
KVG: Many collectors are curious to learn more about the name, why ‘Dark Fractures’? Where is it coming from?
DF: ‘Dark Fractures’ refers to the uncanny, eerie spaces between us and the non-human world. So much of our modern worldview enacts a distance, and hierarchical difference, between us and what we call Nature. If we start to examine the cracks in our worldview (of which there are many, and us-them model does lend itself to oversimplification), especially when we try to approach the non-human as equals, we find that these as are in fact spaces of potential that can lead to new ways of experiencing interactions, values, and meaning with the non-human: the dark and the fractured is, to me, a rich substrate of the earth for new growths to emerge from.
It’s also a personal reminder to stay outside my comfort zone and try to persist in creating interactions and new perceptions of Nature that can be enriching & positive to others.
KVG: You are originally from Norway and your career started as an architect, how and when you started to move towards generative arts? What has influenced you in making this shift?
DF: In retrospect leaving architecture was inevitable, it’s still quite a conservative field with a still quite limited capacity for developing ecology-focused interactions and spatial experiments, there was a need to find/create a space where alternative explorations could be nurtured. Frankly, it was ultimately quite depressing to be a senseless participant, so I decided to try and create a space that resonated with my values and interests, hence the arts. That said, Dark Fractures as an artistic practice is still very much a work in progress, but I’m happy to be fully committed to the endeavor of developing a more sustainable, responsive practice that includes a multitude, not only myself.
The move towards generative arts started in reality only about a year ago, before then I’d worked primarily digitally (3D and it’s ilk), but only after beginning to collaborate with Sofia Crespo did I start to see (and explore) the relevance of generative arts.
Something that personally has gripped me deeply, is that the medium lends itself to performing what I like to think of as “meditations”. For example, to create a GAN is to focus on a single point. A dataset of a subject is first carefully curated. Then the model trains, often at great length, and finally the resulting extraction leads to an “essential” regeneration of that initial subject in ways that create new experiences of something often familiar & mundane. A key aspect of this is the inherent bias that is reflected back at the viewer: there is nothing objective about the results: often they reveal the subconscious biases we projected as part of the initial curation process, becoming a way to see another through oneself.
KVG: Dark Fractures is focusing on ‘giving non-human new forms of presence & life in digital space’. Can you explain this fascinating concept further?
DF: As mentioned earlier, the way we have constructed our worldview over time has lead to a hopelessly divisive and hierarchical distance from our context where we are somehow disconnected (and often superior) from the non-human, or Nature. Exploring this through the optics of digital space is a way of enacting a multitude of iterative experiments in bending, breaking, and twisting our initial perceptions in a way that is easily shared, forked, and changed.
We have on the internet re-enacted the forest with its mycelial networks bringing a wide array of individuals together into a larger interconnectedness, why shouldn’t we strive to bridge the digital and the natural world when such symmetry exists?
It’s also a question of inclusivity, I don’t think we can grow a more sustainable world without becoming more inclusive and tolerant to others, issues of gender, race, and sexuality aren’t somehow separate from ecology. If we can’t experience each other as equals, what hope does a tree have of being an equal, living presence? Conversely, if we can explore ways of experiencing non-humans as equals, maybe that can teach us to experience each-other a little more appreciatively too.
KVG: Where do you get your daily inspiration from? And what makes Dark Fractures so unique and innovative?
DF: Nature: being in it, reflecting upon it, learning about it is naturally a key source of inspiration. Additionally, fiction, especially sci-fi and fantasy is a daily driver. I keep returning to storytelling as something essential we cannot separate ourselves from: our life & world are constructed from the stories we tell ourselves about what it is to be us. Also, tinkering often leads to interesting new things. I love tinkering.
KVG: You have been developing several projects, is there a common thread in your research?
DF: A common thread is that each project acts as a single meditation in what is now becoming a series of meditations on the non-human (Nature).
KVG: Talking about unique projects, recently you have been working on ‘artificial remnants’ together with artist Sofia Crespo as part of an ongoing exploration in Artificial Life. We would love to hear more about this and about your collaboration.
DF: Artificial Remnants is the intention to celebrate the natural diversity of life, not through the slavish reproduction of it, but through a kind of ‘weird reflection’ where the natural world is explored by attempting to create artificial lifeforms that a generated using datasets extracted from the natural world.
As a collaboration, this project has been a deep dive into gaining an even greater appreciation of the sheer richness and diversity of the natural world. For instance, the insects our 2.1 iterations, whilst wild and diverse in their forms, still pale compared to their natural counterparts. It has been a humbling process, in the best of ways.
On a personal level, it’s also been enriching and inspiring to work with such a talented artist who has such a unique and rich way of seeing and engaging with the world.
KVG: Let’s be technical, how do you create the specimens?
DF: The specimens are generated with a GAN trained on 3D models of insects, then textured with a CNN and finally, GPT-2 is used to generate the (anatomical) descriptions.
KVG: Selected artworks are showcased on SuperRare. What do you think about blockchain technology and art? And why you specifically selected SR, given that are other similar blockchain platforms for art?
DF: Honestly, I’m still trying to orient myself in regards to blockchain tech and art, that said I’m fascinated by there now being ways of exploring exclusivity in the digital realm. My hope is that it can both legitimize digital forms of expression even further as well as lead to greater accessibility and diversity. SR was a natural choice to explore crypto art as it has been conducting a slow, but steady approach to functionality and features, I’m always leery of platforms that try to include everything and the kitchen sink from day one, here SR has been a positive experience. That said, I think that it’s important to actively work on inclusivity & equality in crypto art: it’s a nascent platform that shouldn’t lean on the excuses of how things often have been so far, this is a good time to be bold.
KVG: Thank you very much for your contribution and if there is anything you would like to share with the public, please feel free to do it!
DF: I’d like to encourage people to explore their relationship to Nature and to practice inclusivity, especially with our current climate in mind. Furthermore, I’d like to take the opportunity to share the result of another little collaboration with Sofia Crespo, a small, meditative experience on jellyfish.. Thanks for reading!