Fleeting Elegance: The Artistic Journey of Kirsten Swensen Through Impermanence and Flux

Fleeting Elegance: The Artistic Journey of Kirsten Swensen Through Impermanence and Flux

In the constantly evolving landscape of art and technology, Kirsten Swensen emerges as a beacon of innovation and introspection, exploring the profound themes of impermanence, transience, and flux through her latest collection, Golden Glory, launched on Sedition. This exquisite series, a testament to Swensen's Dutch heritage and inspired by the Dutch Golden Age, delves deep into the ephemeral beauty of life and the inevitable decay of death. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to generate and slowly decompose images of vibrant flower bouquets, Swensen not only pays homage to the classical art of still lives but also propels it into the contemporary realm, where the digital and the transient interlace. Golden Glory invites viewers on a philosophical journey, challenging them to reflect on the beauty that fades and the digital footprints that, while seemingly eternal, will also become relics of the past. Through this collection, Swensen continues to explore the intersection of human emotion, technological advancement, and the timeless quest for meaning in our fleeting existence.

Q: You have recently launched a new collection titled Golden Glory on Sedition. The collection reveals beautiful images of different flower bouquets generated by AI. Could you explain the concept, the making of, and the inspirations behind this series?

A: As a follow-up to my previous collection Artificial Bloom, this collection is inspired by the Dutch Golden Age and is closer to my Dutch roots and heritage. With themes of transience, life, and death, the series explores the impermanence of beauty as an algorithm slowly decomposes the flowers and they change into something else entirely - as they slowly fade away into nothingness. Drawing inspiration from the Dutch Golden Age, particularly still-life bouquets, I was inspired to capture the delicate balance between the allure of vibrant flowers and the undeniable truth that all things must pass. The rich symbolism embedded in these flowers, where even the most beautiful flowers eventually wilt in the fleeting passage of time, conveyed a double meaning of beauty and decay, which resonated deeply with me. It's interesting we humans live toward death, it's a fate we can’t escape and everyone copes with this differently. Through mortality, we come to learn the importance of how we want to live our lives. 

In this series, I aim to bring together the classical with the contemporary through the eyes of AI. These AI-generated flower bouquets, are slowly decomposed by algorithms and symbolize the perpetuity of code and data in the vast expanse of the digital realm. Just as the Dutch masters skillfully depicted the fleeting nature of life through their paintings and canvases, I explore the notion that, in our era, algorithms and digital footprints persist indefinitely, but eventually will become ghosts of the past.

The collection invites viewers to contemplate the parallels between the images and memories we hold on to, and the transience inherent in our rapidly evolving digital landscape. 

Q: Could you tell us a bit about your creative process? How do you define your creative practice? Are there any recurring themes in your works?

A: In my practice, I make extensive use of cutting-edge digital technologies using computational methods like sound, code, and data as a paintbrush. For me, the work often begins with a philosophical question and later finds its form through a medium that expresses that feeling the best way: it can be a video installation but could also be a generative painting or drawing.

In my work, I often explore themes of nature, existentialism, impermanence, life, death, identity/non-dualism, interpersonal dynamics, and also transcendentalism. I'm interested in human & machine collaboration and like to explore what it means to be human in the era of Artificial Intelligence. Nowadays, there is a lot of discussion and worries about how technology will negatively impact humanity, but at the same time, this technological evolution is inevitable. Therefore, I am challenged to create work that provides a space for healing, reflection, and contemplation of our existence through digital experiences that explore the potential for technology to be a tool for spiritual growth and self-care. For me, the process often begins with a philosophical question and my laptop which serves as a tool to convey my thoughts and translate them through video art, poetry, and installations.

Over the years in my artistic journey, I have explored a myriad of mediums - from photography and illustration to painting - before I found my niche in computer-generated digital art. Growing up with computers and video games from a really young age the digital realm had a major influence on my approach. Today my practice is a rich combination of mediums, seamlessly weaving together elements of generative design, video editing, digital imaging, AI, VR, and CGI to portray my world and universe.

Sometimes it's a question I want viewers to contemplate, other times it’s about conveying a feeling. Lately, I using more advanced technology in various ways to form new work. For example, I am using an EEG brainwave device to capture my emotions as data and use them as input for generative painting. Other times I use AI tools like Midjourney or DALL-E to envision a rough sketch I had in my imagination and use that as input or starting point for a new idea or world I had in mind. For me, it became part of my artistic practice. By combining creative coding, CGI, and extended realities, I focus on creating experiences that fuse art and technology and make room for contemplation.

Tinnitus, 2024

Q: You obtained your BA in Photography, Film & Design. Could you name some of your favorite creators or makers that impacted your practice? 

A: I studied art history at university as part of my art education and learned a lot just by looking at different artists. I am deeply inspired by all types of artists, ranging from the old Dutch masters like Rachel Ruysch to the highly intimate world of women, genitals, lizards, and cats of photographer Nobuyoshi Araki to the color field movement with artists like Helen Frankenthaler. For a long time, I've been inspired by artists like her and Rothko, who transmuted emotion into intriguing works of art. Transmuting energy into tangible form is a subject I'm also still researching and experimenting with. 

My work is also deeply influenced and inspired by Philosophy movements such as Buddhism and Existentialism. As someone who has been through plenty of existential crises from a young age, I also went through some spiritual experiences that have made a deep impact on me ever since. What Carl Jung meant when he said we have to bring the dark into the light is true. It is through moments of suffering we come to understand what it means to be alive. As someone who also suffers from Tinnitus, I’ve learned to transmute that suffering into creative endeavors. 

Meditation became really important to me and helped me go inward and gain important insights. I get inspiration from the fact that everything is constantly in flux, and nothing remains the same. It’s somehow comforting and scary at the same time. I like to explore various digital mediums to visualize inner parts of my psyche that are individualistic in nature, yet at the same time universal. I like the idea that the virtual can be a tool for spiritual growth, self-care, and well-being. I often contemplate the digitalized culture that we inhabit, a world in which technology has the power to heal but also destroy.

Q: Which artist(s) currently inspire you? 

A: Currently, one of my favorite creators is Ed Atkins. His work in the realm of digital art and contemporary media has been a constant source of inspiration for me because of his approach to storytelling and the multiple layers you can discover in his work. Ed Atkins is a British artist known for his innovative and thought-provoking approach to the intersection of technology and human experience. Atkins explores the complexities and tension of identity, reality, and the human condition in the digital age. He often uses hyper-realistic computer-generated avatars and environments to create a surreal and immersive experience for the audience.

What particularly resonates with me is the way he addresses profound philosophical and existential questions and how he makes us reflect on the essence of being human in a digital era. I like how he does not constrain himself into one medium; he uses poetry, drawings, and CGI to create his universe. I am also drawn to different mediums as they have the ability to tell different stories. 

Ed Atkins, Installation View

Q: How do you feel about the future of art? What excites and challenges you about it? 

A: As a millennial and someone who grew up with computers and the Internet being second nature, technology has become integrated into every aspect of my life. For the next generation, it will be even more different. They will be so integrated with technology they wouldn’t know how to live without it; it will be an extension of their selves deeply integrated with AI. Even though things are shifting towards more digital mediums as part of our digital evolution, to me, art is about connection, connection with others, but also the self. Art has the power to connect us and get people to contemplate the meaning of life, its impermanence, the importance of appreciating nature, and being curious about the world around us instead of getting lost in a digitalized reality such as social media. Ironically enough, I also like to use digital media to reach people. I make use of other mediums too, I draw and I paint. But I believe more in the power of using a medium that is equal to the time we live in. This might not be valued in the traditional art scene yet, but I know it’s coming and it’s already happening. The digital artists of today will be the pioneers of this new era. I wish to explore how technology can be utilized to foster meaningful connections with the self, and how it can be used to expand our understanding of the world around us. I think tools and new technologies like VR, AR, and AI are very promising because they can create a more visceral experience, and can enhance our own perspectives or even deepen our imagination in ways we never “imagined”. We can tell stories with these tools and let people experience them very intimately. 

Sketch from Contemplation Spaces: White Forest Room

At the same time, art for me is an outlet for my own questions and emotions, and equally, these emotions are incredibly universal. Art is still subjective and always will be subjective. But that is also the beauty of it. Currently what can be a challenge is that sometimes the ideas in my mind take so much time to create. My mind runs much faster than the output I can create. Just like the paintbrush takes time to master, so does this also go for digital tools. Due to the rise of AI tools this will significantly decrease and we can all be creators of unprecedented depth, but that also raises the question; if it becomes easier to create does it sustain its value? I personally think so. The next era will be the era of visionaries, people with imagination. Imagination will still be our strength, which in turn will improve AI learning models. The question is when will AI become better at imagining things than humans? Perhaps we will learn this answer one day when AGI arrives. 

In the future, I believe art will be more about vision and less about techniques or craft. Skills such as imagination, concept, and vision will be rewarded and become more prominent. This will count more than ever as we are confronted by what it means to be human in the era of Artificial Intelligence where truth will be inseparable from falsehood. 

While surely traditional art will always be respected, I think advancements in technology open up a new realm where we can start to experience art differently and we can enter other worlds and engage our senses in different ways. Currently, traditional art like oil paintings are still valued the highest but as AI is emerging this field will take on a new dimension and artists will be rewarded for their vision and concept, not just the craft. Art to me is about collaboration, ideas, and storytelling.

Q: Could you tell us about your future projects? Are there any exhibitions or projects that you’re excited about?

A: Currently I am working on a new project called Energetic Transmutations where I am experimenting with my own brain waves that serve as input for digital paintings. I am interested in the idea of transmuting energy into moving matter and the idea of making the invisible, visible. Energy is all around us. Through meditation, you can get in touch with your feelings that manifest as energy in your body. Meditation is not an easy practice to sustain in a world so busy as ours. I like the idea of how any emotion can become a surface on its own, telling a story, always changing and in constant flux. This is also true for our emotions, as we are not our emotions, we just need to acknowledge them and let them flow through us in order to release them. 

Energetic Transmutations: Rage

Another project that I am working on is called Contemplation Spaces, which is a totally different type of project I am very excited about, centered around the use and combination of AI and VR and the understanding of how these immersive spaces can impact our thoughts and emotions. My visual research led me on a quest to explore sanctuaries we can access within our minds. It’s often a practice I use in meditation if I seek a connection with my inner self. These are spaces where we can find solace, and clarity and even heal ourselves.

How does the imagery and symbolism of a Japanese garden, for instance, mirror the landscapes of our imagination? I'm interested in exploring how these imaginary places we often go to in our minds can be harnessed for well-being.

Each of these rooms will be available as an NFT collection eventually, with the idea that collectors can own one of these rooms and reside in it whenever they need a break from life or need to contemplate in solitude. They can also share the room with others as they wish.

Sketch from Contemplation Spaces: Cherry Blossom Room

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Kirsten Swensen
Kirsten Swensen
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