At the time, personal computers didn’t have very sophisticated graphics, but I spent hours programming Mondrian style images, changing the code to create a new image, contemplating it for a while and then changing it again.
The graphic capabilities of personal computers became more sophisticated as time progressed and I was captivated by the endless streams of digital imagery that were possible, as well as the fascinating and surreal, abstract patterns that the computer generated simply by tweaking a few parameters and formulas. I was hooked.
What began as a simple experiment and idle pastime turned into an obsession and then into a quest. What was I looking for in this infinite stream of strangely beautiful abstract images? There was a truth here and an unearthly beauty. Truth, because the images didn’t represent anything other than themselves. Beauty, because of their purity, they shone with a stunning, immaculate radiance. They were their own truth and their own fierce beauty.
The more I contemplated the abstract forms, textures, and colors, the more I found my perceptions being cleansed, becoming pure. I began to notice a timeless presence, a luminosity that lay as a background to my experience of the process.
I saw the images, and even my ordinary, everyday life, as the divine radiance of this primordial, luminous, unchanging awareness. The fountain of creation, as it seemed to me.
It became apparent that the images weren’t simply decorative, although they soon filled my walls, rather they were objects of meditation, quiet contemplation, and even veneration.
They transformed my everyday world as well. I began to see everything as an unknowable abstraction that emerged from behind the veil of worldly affairs. The world had brightened, as if the sun had come out from behind the clouds, and sparkled with a wholesome freshness that I had not experienced since childhood.
The world of frozen objects and incessant storylines melted into a fluid ocean of pure perceptions, dancing free and unencumbered by expectation of completion or explanation — like watching shifting, mesmerizing waves on the ocean.
The images emerging from my computer’s screen were not my own creation or invention, but rather they were a collaboration with some unknowable, immaculate source of mathematical perfection. It was a conversation between man and machine. It was a dance in which the separation between myself and my cybernetic partner disappeared and there was only the dance — and joy.
Eventually, I ran out of wall space to display the art and the images just collected dust on my hard drive. And then I bought an Apple TV.
I began formatting the images to take up the full screen and ran them as a slideshow. My TV became a shrine to the radiance and purity, clarity and warmth of this magnificent, nameless presence, the source of every good thing in my life. They were a form of visual music, “a song that you could look at,” as Miles Davis once said.
There is a symbiotic relationship between visual art and music and I began meditating on the slide shows while listening to my favorite music. It was a total immersion in bliss, a dissolution into an ocean of loving kindness.
The process was not about creating pretty images to sell as prints. It was about training myself to see the immaculate truth and beauty that lies at the heart of each and every moment of life.
It taught me about the two worlds. The pure world of raw perceptions and the shadow world created by the stories that we tell ourselves about those primordial experiences — and underneath it all the basic ground of an unchanging, undying, unborn awareness from which everything arises and has its being.
This series was created by collaborating with the artificial intelligence at the heart of the DeepDream project. I input some of my completely abstract images to the software to see what patterns the AI would find in them. The results are the series that I call What Androids Dream. A sort of homage to Philip K Dick, the series anticipates the coming Singularity when even artists may be superseded by machine superintelligence.
Just as photography inspired the cubists and abstract expressionists, what will art generating, super intelligent machines inspire? Perhaps a collaboration between man and machine to find that perfect image?
I find the alien creatures that the AI “finds” to be strangely endearing, like the “hopeful monsters” of the Cambrian explosion — perhaps even an electric sheep or two for Philip K Dick’s android’s private amusement. For me, the images create a mental atmosphere of sci-fi, psychedelic surrealism filled with strange, dreamlike stories.
There seem to be many stories going on in each image — stories that are private and unique to each viewer, stories that are unique to each viewing.
And the story’s the thing, isn’t it?