The works in the exhibition, made over the past few years, see the artist return to research areas he initially engaged with at MIT between 1999 and 2001, when he was a graduate student in the Aesthetics and Computation Group. His research at the time focused on artificial life and machine intelligence. Since then, Reas’ work has been notable for exploring the potential of machine intelligence, AI and software more generally as an extension of human creative exploration as opposed to productivity, through exhibitions, teaching and the co-creation with Ben Fry of the Processing language.
Compressed Cinema is a long-standing research framework adopted by Reas. It works with generative adversarial networks (GANs), a type of machine learning algorithm which is trained on making images indistinguishable from photography. Reas works with GANs away from their intended goal, instead exploring their ability to produce uncanny, ephemeral, transitory images. Reas works with the algorithms by controlling training data and selecting which images to train the GANs’ attention on.
Casey Reas, Untitled Film Still 2.2, 2019, C-Print 30 x 30 cm
At DAM, Reas presents two series of works produced as part of Compressed Cinema, which was supported by the Google Focused Research award and Google Arts & Culture’s Artists + Machine Intelligence program. In Untitled Film Stills, small-scale images invite the visitor to draw close to examine the granular images, whose patterns of blur and focus are atypical of digital photography. The images, produced by algorithm, are frames from a speculative film, and referencing the scale and image quality of early photography and film. Untitled Film Stills is a response to the photographic works of Cindy Sherman.
Casey Reas, Untitled Film Still 2.6, 2019, C-Print 30 x 30 cm
The other series on display is Earthly Delights, a series of machine-made videos influenced by the work of Stan Brakhage. The videos are of infinite duration, their creation controlled in real time by custom software. The source material for the videos is derived from scans of vegetation in Colorado; these stills are taken by the custom software as a starting point for various video compositions.
Compressed Cinema is at DAM gallery, Seydelstraße 30, 10117 Berlin, DE until 4 May.
Top image: Casey Reas, Untitled Film Still 2.7, 2019, C-Print 30 x 30 cm