Artist Barney McCann visualises new life forms using artificial intelligence 08.06.20

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These ground-breaking artworks have been produced entirely by machines attempting to recreate and replicate natural forms. 

At first appearing abstract or other-wordly, the process by which Barney McCann has created his series Computer Generated Organism feeds into the understanding of the art in front of you. 

Having studied Graphic Design and the Moving Image at Central St. Martins, McCann's interest lies not in the outcome of his work, but the theory and process behind it - an idiosyncrasy that saw him spend four years developing a machine learning algorithm that allows him to explore the potential of artificial intelligence. 

Barney McCann Computer Generated Organism Number 4
"The biological source material is especially visible in this one. It looks as much floral as it does a cell or a medical photograph. It doesn't feel like a digitally-created artwork but is arguably too digital to look natural" Computer Generated Organism Number 4, Barney McCann

Having previously used this process to create the world's first AI-generated typeface, selected by Google for further development, the new Computer Generated Organism series is an exploration of biology as much as it is in the capabilities of artificial intelligence. 

Barney McCann Computer Generated Organism Number 9
Computer Generated Organism Number 9, Barney McCann

"All Artificial Intelligence systems are doing what these artworks are doing; making best-guess attempts at recreating a requested object, or attempting to identify what it 'sees' as best it can from a dataset," he tells ICON. "These Computer Generated Organisms are sort-of showing 'what’s under the hood' or revealing these processes a little more to the audience."

"In this sense, the project has the same intention as Obsolete (my ai typeface); showing the progress of a digital system that seems so alien and unimaginable to the public but has a very real and daily impact on our lives."

Barney McCann Computer Generated Organism Dog Recreation
"This is a digital recreation of a human experience that a computer couldn't understand - playing with a dog. Created from hundreds of stills of playing with a dog and asking the process to recreate what it has seen, it replicates the motion and the action of playing with a dog but without some of the key things a human would include in a representation of it. It's sort of a theoretical study in getting artificial intelligence to create a representation of something it will never understand." Computer Generated Organism Dog Recreation, Barney McCann

"Using a huge dataset of natural and biological input images, the process generates its own output images – this number is potentially infinite."

With such a huge volume of datasets, and the fact that the initial input images are then removed from the dataset, the artworks are never directly created from the actual natural and biological images. The finished artworks are generated by repeating this cycle continuously. 

You can see more of the series on Barney McCann's website

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