Nancy Oliveri: Self Portrait on a Life Raft
January 11 – February 3, 2024 (Project Room)
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Nancy Oliveri: Self Portrait on a Life Raft
AI-generated photo-based images
A black and white photograph of a nude athletic woman on a wood raft floating in a flooded city street at night with pigeons.
I love photography. I was introduced to the world in black and white in the he early 60’s through Life and Look magazines. I didn’t know then that it was a carefully crafted vision by some of the greatest photographers of that generation including Margaret Bourke-White, Lee Miller and others. In art school in the 80’s I was confronted with the work of the Pictures Generation artists who challenged the authority of mass media as a constructed cultural hallucination. As a photographer, I never thought that I was documenting objective reality as much as manifesting multiple editorial and conceptual decisions in collaboration with developing technology to take a picture, so I wasn’t toooffended by the introduction of Artificial Intelligence or AI generated photographic imagery. AI to me was the most exciting thing since I learned to develop black and white film in a darkroom and images, faces and details magically appeared in a tray or since the introduction of digital photography which allowed unlimited frames forexperimentation. I did have some serious concerns and disliked the hyperreal, sharpness, the soulless psychotic aesthetic I was seeing on social media and the obvious potential for political manipulation and the risk theft of other artist’s work. AI isn’t required for deception, to manufacture propaganda or for copyright infringement of artwork, but it can facilitate the threats as with greater global risk. I decided to embrace the hyperreal aesthetic selectively as a gesture in a new language in contrast use with the more primitive gestures which resonate more with early primitive. I use platforms that offer artists the opportunity to train on their own work but acknowledge a legitimate place for open-source AI in artistic practice. The pictorial plasticity is what excites me combined with human authorship. The source images for my series Self Portrait on a Life Raft, were selected photographs from my archives spanning time and global locations including a 2012 nude self- portrait on a raft, a 2017 street photograph of narrow Chinatown Street, a photograph of flying pigeons in Barcelona and a Gowanus Canal landscape. Each of the photographs has merit but fall short conceptually of what I hope to achieve in my artistic practice. Photorealism, street photography and documentary work can be too direct a medium to respond to psychological horror, global terrorism or climate devastation without perpetuating graphic trauma or desensitization. AI offers metaphor and a sublimation of the freedom of being outside traditional photographic interpretations. A machine is learning to collaborate with me, copy and interpret my photography in a sometimes intelligent but mostly dopey way. But it’s a collaborative relationship and a tool capable of combining several photographs or successful elements from different photographs. I maintain full authorship and control over every decision with what I considered a spectacular tool. I enter 5 or 6 images and write a text followed by the process of evolution to create a model with multiple generations. Occasionally the platform will direct a picture towards a stereotypical or pornographic solution when unintended and sometimes in a direction that is a pleasant collaborative surprise. I was thinking about floods and climate devastation when I began the Raft project, so I created an ongoing narrative in a postapocalyptic psychic space. After around 500 generations I started to find things unknown to me, maybe hidden in my unconscious mind and waiting to be seen like a visual oracle. And in then it became a series of self-portraits that I thought represented hidden parts of myself as the protagonist. Photography always felt like an extension of my eyes and nervous system. AI generated photography feels more like a direct link to my unconscious mind or the human mind. As someone with a 30-year career as a licensed psychotherapist, human consciousness is always more fascinating than artificial intelligence.
Nancy Oliveri is an American fine art photographer born in Providence, RI in 1958. She studied experimental film and photography at the Hartford Art School in the early1980’s and has since exhibited internationally and in the US while living and working in Brooklyn, New York City. Her recent embrace of Artificial Intelligence is an exploration of pictorial plasticity and unconscious process influenced by Surrealism, the history of painting, Conceptual Art and cinema as well as a three-decade career as a licensed psychotherapist. Prior book projects include Dejavu, Already Seen and Dejavu, Already Dreamed, which are two of her seventeen selfpublished photobooks and the recipients of numerous international awards including the Tokyo International Foto Awards, the Paris PX3 Awards and the Urban Photography Awards in Trieste, Italy. She was awarded a competitive solo exhibition of her Coney Island photography titled American Dreams at Ph21 gallery in Budapest in 2016. Oliveri has been featured at the Fotonostrum Gallery in Barcelona through the Julia Margaret Cameron and Pollux Awards and has been included in prestigious group exhibitions at The Soho Photo Gallery, The Museum of the City of New York’s New York Responds Exhibition and the Women’s Street Photography Exhibition at PS109 El Barrio in New York. Her still life photography has been published in Musee Magazine and L’Oeil, The Eye of Photography and her candid portraits were selected for Pasolini, The Unmasked Face 71% Water both published by Exhibit Around Italy. Her recent AI generated photography was exhibited at the Guelman und Unbekannt Gallery in Berlin, her subway poster AI generated images were selected for the Shape Exhibition at Ph21 Gallery and her Atlantis AI Series was projected a Gold Winner at B24 Gallery during Paris Photo Week. Oliveri’s AI generated landscapes were also selected for the South Brooklyn Salon Show at Thomas Vandyke Gallery and AI images from Urban Noir Horror series were selected by Elizabeth Avedon for the 40 Over 40 Online Exhibition at SXSE Gallery.
This exhibition was supported by the Local Government of Ferencváros District (Budapest Főváros IX. Kerület Ferencváros Önkormányzata).