Objective Portrait

collaboration with Gijs de Boer

A subject recognition algorithm

As designers, we (Gijs and Vera) are often fascinated by particular objects without really knowing why. This project explores whether a differently trained object recognition algorithm can help to understand such relations.

Usually, these algorithms are used to very accurately recognise whether something is a chair, or a plant, for instance. But something interesting happens when the algorithm makes a ‘wrong’ guess. When it sees a plant in a chair, this guess is still based on something: namely, on how the algorithm is coded and trained. It’s almost a given that this is why the decisions of algorithms are never neutral. Yet instead of trying to erase all bias, we take this connection to its maker as a starting point.

If we explicitly train an algorithm on someone’s personal values, can it capture something of their particular way of seeing? While an objec recognition algorithm usually tries to learn the definition of an object, we explore the potential for a subject recognition algorithm: can an AI learn to see the value and meaning of an object for someone?

Installation, Dutch Design Week, 2022

Still Life

“Still Life” is a research project exploring machine learning algorithms becoming explicitly subjective. In this project, it was questioned how something subjective as emotions and the human gaze could be placed on an objective, mathematical scale, as machine learning algorithms appear to be. How can you automate an emotional experience of the world? How can you capture this in a dataset? What can image recognition algorithms look like, if they are trained on merely subjective, emotional categories?

The research became a thought experiment in which the programming and the use of the learning machine was reconsidered. This resulted in the installation “Still Life”, in which a speculative process of an ‘emotional algorithm at work’ was depicted. The installation invites the spectator to experience an object recognition algorithm, and to become aware of the emotional meaning and symbolism captured in the constellations of the objects around us, and what role this learning algorithm could play.

Installation, grad project, 2019

Objective Portraiture

In collaboration with Gijs de Boer & Studio Digital Native -
Design Academy Eindhoven

This was a three-day workshop with bachelor students of the Digital Native program. During these three days, the students trained their own object recognition algorithm and crafted an artwork specifically for this algorithm to analyze. The students collected datasets that represented their interests and fascinations, and then annotated those datasets with their judgments. This entire process of teaching the machine something about themselves became a reflexive journey for the students, making them realize how they positioned themselves within their research topics and making practices. It also generated a personal understanding of the workings of such an AI model.

A written publication of this work is coming soon. Images courtesy of the students who created them.

Top left: Aisha’s Portrait
Top Right: Yann’s Portrait
Middle: Borisz Portrait
3-day workshop, 2023

Dixit Algorizmi: The garden of Knowledge

Essay contribution
The Incredible Story of Algo & I

Dixit Algorizmi - The Garden of Knowledge, published to coincide with the opening of the exhibition in Venice, presents a series of essays reflecting on the themes addressed in the exhibition series soon to open in Venice. Dixit Algorizmi - The Garden of Knowledge sets out to question the origin myths and narratives surrounding modern technologies, using the lens of contemporary artistic practices to explore their forgotten roots, and overlooked resonances with distant places, times, and cultures.

Edited by Space Caviar and Sheida Ghomashchi

Publisher: Humboldt books
essay contribution, 2022

The Incredible Story of Algo & I 

This project is an alternative, contemporary science-fiction novel in which an interaction process between a designer and a Machine Learning Algorithm is described in the form of a diary book. These diary passages are alternated with more scientific and theoretical insights from the professional field. The book creates a narrative around the use of intelligent systems on the personal level of the designer, but also covers the implications of the technique on a societal level.

publication, thesis, 2019

I am a designer and researcher, currently working as a PhD student at the Technical University in Delft, as part of the Designing Intelligence Lab. My research and design work involves AI in creative practices, and I explore how it can be used as a tool for self-reflection.
I create publications, workshops, talks and installations for exhibitions. 

Exh, Pub, Talk

Objective Portrait (2022)
Objective Portraiture (2023)
Still Life (2019)
Dixit Algorizmi: The garden of Knowledge (2022)
Incredible Story of Algo & I (2019)
MushroomGAN (2022)