sem·blance (noun) – outward and often specious appearance or show.
Semblance explores experiences of the self as sculpted by context. At times, one can experience their private, most expansive self as their true self. In other moments, a performative cutout is needed to conform to one’s environment. Through its various manifestations, the work dwells on the tension between displaying the private self as a form of liberation, and amplifying the performative self as a form of suppression.
The collection draws inspiration from my childhood as an Indian-American growing up in Atlanta, where I felt pressure to conform to the cultural norms and expectations of those around me. This nurtured conflicting perceptions of my public and private identify – a dilemma depicted in Semblance through a reimagination of the weavings and textiles from my childhood home.
Each Semblance is a unique blend of color, diffusion, and environment. Its appearance is shaped by the suppression of a distinct focal point that dictates its context. Ultimately, the viewer is invited to toggle between the two states and explore that tension within themselves.
The origins of Semblance started with my attempts at recreating Bauhaus art I found online in conjunction with a glitch effect. While experimenting with multiple versions of textures and styles during Genuary, I began to see the potential for capturing my childhood experiences. An idea that had been simmering on the back burner, eventually dubbed 'Semblance', started to take shape through daily prompts that continuously challenged me to push the boundaries of this algorithm. I am grateful to Genuary Day 2 and Day 3 prompts, which were instrumental in sparking the conceptual inspiration.
Conveying meaning through interaction
One of the most compelling aspects of generative art, apart from its emergent nature, is its accessibility. Viewers can experience the art from the comfort of their own home and interact with it through something as simple as a click. Semblance takes advantage of this by giving viewers control of the work, encouraging them to explore the tension between their private and performative selves.
The algorithm uses a suppression level and focal point to generate a manifestation, which creates a bias towards the viewer's initial judgment of the output. Viewers can then delve into the contradictions between their private and performative selves by choosing to toggle back and forth between the two states as many times as desired or needed.
Manifestations of the self
As humans, we generally have the same composition: head, torso, arms, and legs. The algorithm embodies this in its own way when personifying the self - a rectangular patch for the head and torso, varying lines for the arms and legs. And, like humans, there are exceptions to this rule, making some of the pieces even more unique and beautiful.
The patch and line details contain many nuances, ranging from color changes to unique cuts and tears, as well as varying diffusion levels. These elements can be fun and are left for the collectors to discover and appreciate.
To determine what manifestation the viewer is able to see, the algorithm imposes a suppression level and focal point. There are four levels of suppression.
Eight focal points exist.
There are ten manifestations, each named to describe what the viewer sees in the output - a performance one might put on for the public. Suppressive outputs are named to suggest performance, while non-suppressed outputs are named to evoke liberation.
Palettes, colors, and diffusion
Our culture, environment, and relationships heavily influence our private and public selves. Similarly, ten combinations and nineteen colors determine the palette and background of each output. These color combinations represent two cultures colliding in a specific environment, while the diffusion emitted by each output symbolizes our reactions to our surroundings. Based on the environment and other blending factors, a third or fourth color may be introduced, further personifying these reactions.
Rather than picking people and things that inspired me and then finding colors that fit, I choose to flip the process. As I went about day job at AB, sifted through old photos, walked around Brooklyn, tried new restaurants, or literally Googled for “nice palettes” – when colors evoked a strong emotion or nostalgic memory, I named the palette after that experience. These ten palettes have shaped who I am today, inspire me, and give me a sense of home.
There are three types of environments: tame, tinted, and inverted. Tinted environments are derived from the colors in the palettes above. Inverted environments can be any inversion of those colors.
The diffusion types are composed and entropic.
The textures used in Semblance are derived from the weavings and textiles of my childhood home. There are three different weaving styles: horizontal, vertical, and crosshatch.
The crosshatch style is particularly meaningful to me because it is modeled after the screens we use on the outside of our windows. As a child, without really knowing it, I often spent many hours looking out the window of my room, imagining, thinking, and trying to understand the complexities of the tension I felt between my performative and true selves.
Much Love & Big Thank You’s
A big thank you to @pleasuredoing, @sterlingcrispin, @plutoniumfitzg, @ronakdaya, @purphat, @madpinney, and @_sross_, Juliana, and Nora for the support, debugging, and feedback to help me get this project out. 🙏🏾
Last, but not least – a special thank you to @aaronpenne for the initial jolt of enthusiasm and encouragement to apply to AB. Without you, I would probably never have released Semblance. ♥️