The Lost Woods, Awakened is an innovative exhibition, masterminded (and remastered) by artists Nathan Harper and Babak Ahteshamipour. This exhibition explores the tensions informing digital identity and artificial intelligence, rooted in a mythical narrative set within a digital realm borrowed from a renowned video game. This realm, aptly named The Lost Woods, Awakened, embodies a liminal, mythical space that blurs the boundaries between worlds, echoing the fluid identities of the digital objects showcased in the exhibition.
Ahteshamipour's contribution is a series of paintings, each depicting 'evil beings' that draw inspiration from ancient demonology, yet are infused with elements from contemporary culture, notably films and video games. His work aims to deconstruct mythical creatures like the Loch Ness Monster or the jackalope, exploring the layers of meaning and connections these beings have with various emotions, identities, and cultural constructs, such as the concept of 'ghosting'. In a unique blend of physical and digital artistry, Babak presents both the original paintings and their digital 3D reconstructions. These beings are not only visual spectacles but also serve as enemy NPCs in the exhibition's digital narrative, bridging the gap between cyberspace entities and tangible art.
Complementing Babak's NPCs are Harper's A.I.-generated hedgehogs. These digital creations are the result of a generative adversarial network, a type of neural network known for its role in creating the "This Person Does Not Exist" generator. Harper's hedgehogs, crafted from a dataset of Sonic the Hedgehog fan characters, represent avatars or self-inserts within the fictional universe of the exhibition. However, Harper's approach is unique in that he relinquishes human control, allowing these characters to be shaped entirely by non-human, algorithmic processes. The result is a fascinating disconnection, where the hedgehogs exist independently of human input.
The exhibition culminates in an intriguing interaction between Nathan's autonomous hedgehogs and Babak's NPCs, weaving a complex narrative that straddles the line between science fiction and mysticism. This narrative acts as a duet between human creativity and machine intelligence, questioning the boundaries of authorship and the nature of digital identity in a world increasingly influenced by artificial intelligence. The Lost Woods, Awakened is not just an art exhibition; it is a thought-provoking exploration of the interplay between the tangible and the virtual, the ancient and the modern, and the human and the machine.
LINK: The Lost Woods, Awakened
LINK: Nathan Harper
LINK: Babak Ahteshamipour