….a bad memory a spectre a pale emaciated creature working hard on your behalf while you get all the credit a faint trace of something residue vestige hallucination your disdained messages a malfunction in the machine….
gh0.st is the avatar of George Haysom-Smith, a visual artist based in London who uses various technologies—software, paper, plywood, glue—to make work about the the dissonance of digital materiality and the invisibility of infrastructural systems. They have certificates for philosophy and visual dissimulation and are currently on the MFA Fine Art program at Goldsmiths.
Artist statement (2023)
If software is eating the world, how will it eat art? Algorithms, machine learning, connected devices, these things dominate our daily lives. In the teeth of this, I am a digital artist, using computers to make art which explores the ups and downs of our digital lives and asks, ultimately, how we find beauty or solace on a post-human planet.
I have always been fascinated by computers and taught myself to code on a ZX81 when I was in elementary school. My first digital artwork (1983) was a hand-coded portrait, printed on a strip of thermal dot matrix paper an inch and three quarters wide.
The tools and techniques I use today are frequently the same ones that corporations use to make virtual worlds for paying customers. On the one hand I trawl sound archives, code repositories, and libraries of 3D models for found material. On the other hand, I use open source software and commercial applications to manipulate that material, to bend and break it, often using physics simulations, noise, and algorithmic procedures to reduce intentionality and create space for happy accidents.
I hold that the singularity has already happened. We’ve been living on a post-human planet since at least the mid-1990’s. Artificially intelligent agents, in the form of networks of people combined with networks of computers, incorporated into private and public companies, endowed with personhood under company law and enslaved by shareholders, dictate how we live, how we love, how we govern, what we remember, and what we ought to value. These badly designed sub-autonomous AI agents are amoral, ruthless, and unbelievably destructive. We mostly haven’t noticed yet because we expected robot overlords, but have actually been given something more familiar, more diffuse, subtler, and harder to pin down.
Computer-generated imagery, whether through simulation or generative AI, provides a model for a third mode of artistic response, one that is neither an exercise in formal abstraction nor an attempt to capture an impression of the world out there, but rather synthesizes a new reality, mingling traditional formal concerns of composition, color, lighting and resemblance with game engine aesthetics, the visual tropes of the post-production industry, and whatever imagination, empathy and courage we can muster.