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Ritual Masks for a New Age

Speculative Design

Machine Learning/AI

Projection Mapping


Experimental Fashion / Wearables

Ritual Masks for a New Age​ is a set of experimental, animated masks that explore how humans might use traditional ritual objects to inhabit, metabolize, and exert spiritual influence over modern forces beyond our individual control. Created with a custom-trained machine learning model and presented as a series of animated wearables, each mask probes the relationship between the digital and analog, the emotional, symbolic, and physically felt experience.   

Contributing Team:
Anna Van Nieuwland (Projection Consultant)

Questions under artistic consideration:

How have humans traditionally exerted symbolic or spiritual influence over situations beyond their control?

What is the relationship between the digital and analog? Between the emotional and physical felt experience?

What do Americans value? What are they afraid of? 

And what would those forces look like if they were made visible and human-scaled?

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Creative Process

I began by researching the forces that inspired widely-held hopes and fears among Americans. I conducted interviews, sought sociological reference texts, and used natural language processing to analyze and highlight keywords regularly used in presidential speeches over the last 50 years.

After narrowing my focus to a few key forces, I created a series of experiments exploring how each might look if they were made visible, wearable, and human-scaled. I also considered magic's role in creating traditional ritual objects, and how a 'black box technologies' like generative AI might feel feel similarly mysterious to laypeople encountering the work.

Once I decided to use artificial intelligence as a part of my creative process, I hand-curated thousands of images related to each force and used them to train a machine learning model, stopping the processes short at various points to generate animations that would ultimately imbue the masks with hallucinogenic, amorphous, deeply strange and sometimes disquieting qualities.

Finally, I projected the final animations onto wearable blank shapes to bring the animations into the physical world — marrying digital and analog, traditional and ultra-modern technologies in a new and unexpected context.

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