Beyond the Canvas: Diving into the Art-Tech Fusion with Crashblossom
In this captivating interview, we delve into the artistic journey of Crashblossom, an innovative artist who seamlessly blends the conceptual with the technological. From his beginnings in alternative gallery spaces in London to embracing the opportunities of NFTs, Crashblossom shares insights into his artistic career. He emphasizes the critical engagement with technology and the importance of staying mindful of its influence. Through his art, Crashblossom invites viewers to reflect on the human experience amidst rapid technological advancements, particularly in AI. Discover how he navigates the ever-changing digital landscape, promoting his work and forming new relationships. Join us as we explore the fascinating world of Crashblossom and his artistic vision.
TNG: When did your artistic career begin?
CB: I started making art when I was in my late teens, putting on exhibitions with friends in alternative gallery spaces in London. I’ve continued to make art intermittently over the years, but my job has been a Creative Director for brands, which has involved creation coupled with technology. Recently, with the advent of NFT’s, I've been able to bring together the more conceptual artistic side of what I do with the technological side.
TNG: Crashblossom is an intriguing pseudonym. Is there a story behind the name or any significance it holds for you?
CB: A crashblossom is a word that is difficult to interpret. For example: ‘red tape holds up skyscraper’. It could be read metaphorically or it could be read literally. In Google’s Glossary of Machine Learning you will also find the term crashblossom. It’s a particularly difficult problem for Machine Learning models, because they tend to read things literally rather than figuratively. It represents a crisis to interpret the information. Machine Learning models can experience this sort of crisis and people experience it too.
TNG: How do you feel as an artist working with software and new technologies? Is it a challenge to stay up to date with – often – hyped new technologies?
CB: I think that it is really important if you are using technology in your art to engage critically with that technology. We are surrounded by all manner of systems that inform our decision making, monitor what we are doing and can influence the way we behave. There is a sense in which technologies are power structures, to the extent that they are used to concretise certain hierarchies or behavior.
With AI there is a technological arms race going on, with people wanting to use the latest models and so on. In the race to keep up, it's easy to lose sight of the broader context and ramifications. Quite often the relationship we have with fast-moving technology can actually be quite traumatic. Either way, there is a lot more going on in that relationship than immediately meets the eye.
TNG: When do you decide a new technology is something you would like to explore in your artistic practice? Do you have certain criteria your decision is based on?
CB: I use the technology that is around me. My new series GOLD, which is coming out in June, is centered around the NFT market itself. The digital object marketplace is chosen as a subject for the art on the basis of necessity. It feels to me like it needs to be engaged with.
TNG: How did you begin working with AI in your art?
CB: I have used pretty much the same technique for the last two or more years. I’m using CNN neural networks, a slightly outdated model now, in a kind of a style transfer process. My practice from the start has been to take a digital character and a digital environment - two separate things - then ‘place’ the character in this foreign digital environment. Through the process of the neural network breeding these two images together, artifacts appear. Those artifacts or glitches become the material of the art.
TNG: Tell us about your series PFPx30 that was/is part of RECOLLECTION. AI AND MEMORY.
CB: PFPx30 is an edition where all the pieces are the same but they are all different at any moment in time. The pieces are constructed from elements of previous artworks in this series. I piece those together into a new artwork which runs on dynamic code, which means that the piece has literally millions of possible variations at any given moment. As far as Ethereum is concerned they are editions of the same artwork. But in fact when you look at any one of them at any given time, they will all be different from each other. It becomes difficult to tell whether the character in this environment is the same as it was before, or in which ways it has changed. It questions the reliability of memories and perception, also examines the fragility of digital identity.
PFPx30 by Crashblossom
TNG: What are your thoughts about the future of AI? How can artists utilize it in a positive way?
CB: There is this paper called The Extended Mind by Andy Clarke and David Chalmers. They pose the question: ‘where does the mind end?’. We become entangled in the technologies that we use and our minds change as a result of those technologies. As with a lot of technology, there are probably numerous ways it can be used for positive ends, but it comes down to whether we are entering into that relationship with open eyes.
TNG: Some argue that AI-generated artwork lacks the "human touch" and emotional depth that traditional art possesses. What are your thoughts on this perspective, and do you think AI-generated art can evoke genuine emotions in viewers?
CB: In my view, the artists who are able to draw out complex or more nuanced emotions from AI are the artists working in response to AI as a technology. I think AI art can be a kind of normative art. Hito Steyerl had a quote recently that it is ‘Mean Art’, in the sense that it finds a mean between all of the art it uses as a reference point. Going further, I think there are emotions that get triggered when we engage with digital media. So if the neural network is drawing on that same ‘library’ of digital media as reference material, there is no reason why it shouldn't be able to generate similar emotions.
TNG: As an artist, how do you navigate the ever-changing digital landscape, including social media and online platforms, to promote and share your work?
CB: Part of me is very cynical about it and I find the whole social media hype cycle unhealthy. On the other hand it's a nice way of connecting and forming relationships. The way NFT technology will evolve, I think it will be intertwined with social media networks. For me this is a very interesting landscape in which to be making art. There are completely new kinds of relationships being formed through all of this.