Von Wolfe | Welcome To The New Futurism

The British contemporary artist Von Wolfe on utilizing machine learning technologies and transmogrifying classical art tropes

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Von Wolfe, Euphoria's Embrace

The exhibition AI & Technology Influence on Contemporary Art is the first collaboration from acclaimed contemporary designer Gabriel Scott and curator and art dealer Virginia Damtsa, who have joined forces to transform Scott’s space in London’s Mayfair into a hub for radical artistic interventions that explore issues pertinent to the zeitgeist. Their inaugural offering explores the impact of machine learning technologies on the practices of three contemporary painters – Jonathan Yeo, Von Wolfe, and Henry Hudson – investigating how AI has re-engineered the thinking behind each of their creative processes.

Arguably, at the heart of this triumvirate of artists is one of the most vocal adoptees of AI in the sphere of contemporary art, Von Wolfe – a master painter who manipulates AI tools to create unsettling visual narratives featuring a cast of individuals co-dreamed into existence with generative prompts (most of whose facial expressions seem to belie psychosis, or, at the very least, borderline personality disorder).

Here, the singular talent whose work seamlessly interweaves traditional painting forms and technological wizardry talks to FLAUNT about welcoming the death of authorship, and tells us why the existential threat posed by AI will only push the human animal into hitherto unmapped creative territories. 

Von Wolfe, Cynosure, Oil on Canvas

What have you learned from your current employment of AI and machine learning technologies?

The intersection of AI and my artistic practice marks a significant evolution in both my method and conceptual framework. This journey has taught me that AI, while offering an expansive range of possibilities, also presents unique challenges that are not unlike mastering traditional painting techniques. My current employment of AI is an extension of this evolving practice, where I use it to explore potential trajectories of painting, reaching into the untouched territories of creativity that might have been possible if not for historical disruptions. The process enhances my understanding of how technology can serve both as a tool and as an integral part of the creative expression in art.

Traditionally art explores human values via concepts, often touching on belief systems or theological constructs. How can generative art ever enter that arena?

Generative art introduces a fascinating dimension to the exploration of human values and emotions. While it might seem improbable for AI to autonomously navigate complex human concepts such as beliefs or emotions, its role is not to replace human expression but to augment and extend it. In my work, I channel my own values into the AI's generative processes, guiding it towards outcomes that resonate with human experiences and cultural narratives. This collaborative interaction between human intention and AI's capabilities allows for a new form of art that can engage with values and emotions in profound and unexpected ways.

Is the death of the author inevitable as we move into a technological age beyond our reckoning?

As we integrate more advanced technologies like AI into creative processes, it undoubtedly transforms the artist's role and the authorship of art. However, rather than seeing this as a loss, it can be viewed as an evolution of the creative identity, where the artist becomes a curator of ideas and interactions between human and machine. The rapid technological progress does pose ethical and existential questions, but it also pushes us to redefine the boundaries and possibilities of human creativity.

Do you believe in guided evolution?
Transhumanism does fascinate me, although perhaps there is a category mistake and serious flaw in the idea of human and machine. It may not simply be the case that one can reduce thought to a neural network that can in turn be remapped in the format of computer code and storage. To take the mind and download it, as it were, onto the cloud is not only technologically distant from us, but also maybe a misconception in itself, where science and philosophy fundamentally disagree. Language may not be centralized in a place such as the brain or reducible to materiality, but rather exists neither inside nor outside the world, as a shared series or rules that we all follow.

Is what we call reality merely a subject of consensus? How can art unveil a deeper reality?

The reality as a consensus is a deeply philosophical concept, with art often acting as a medium to question and expand upon this consensus. My pursuit as an artist is to delve deeper into these philosophical questions, using art to expose layers of reality that might not be apparent in everyday life. Art can reveal truths about our society, our beliefs, and our emotions, challenging viewers to reconsider their perceptions and understandings of the world. Ultimately, as an artist, I seek to evoke introspection, provoke dialogue, and offer new perspectives through my creations, using both traditional and technological methods.

How has your adoption of generative tools reshaped your concerns as an artist?

Incorporating AI tools into my art has significantly reshaped my concerns and expanded my creative horizon. These technologies have not only allowed for a more extensive exploration of styles and ideas but have also prompted a deeper introspection about what it means to create. The journey into AI and digital art has been one of discovery, pushing the boundaries of traditional art forms and exploring new mediums. It has taught me that artistic expression is continually evolving, influenced by both the artist's vision and the tools at their disposal.

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Von Wolfe, Welcome To The New Futurism, Art, John-Paul Pryor