Nettrice Gaskins. “Atomic Dawg,” 2021. Created using deep image style transfer.

Well, I know that I don’t know nothin’ about what I do. I know that it works. I don’t know how it works, because I know it ain’t supposed to, but it works. I don’t know what it is that I am doing — it works, and to me, that’s the funk. I do the best I can, and I won’t tell anybody that I know what I’m doing. — George Clinton via Vice Magazine

Speculative fiction covers a variety of genres that have elements that do not exist in reality. Coined by Robert Heinlein in 1947, speculative fiction or…

Primavera (spring) and the iterative loop in machine learning.

Deep Dream Generator is a free online application that just about anyone can use to create images using machine learning. Machine Learning (ML) is a subset of artificial intelligence in which computers are able to learn and adapt without following explicit instructions, by using algorithms to analyze and draw inferences from patterns in data. A machine learning model is a digital file that has been trained to recognize certain types of patterns. You train a model over a set of data, providing it with an algorithm that it can use to reason over and learn from those data.

3D model created in Tinkercad based on Cold Sweat music visualization

Black Music Appreciation Month is an annual celebration of African-American music in the United States. It was initiated as Black Music Month by President Jimmy Carter in June 1979. In his 2016 proclamation, Barack Obama noted that African-American music and musicians have helped the country “to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country’s enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all.”

Nettrice Gaskins. Grunge Queen, 2021. Creating using machine learning.

Tina Bell’s story is yet another in a string of many women, especially women of color, who’ve made significant contributions to the development of a genre only to be written out of the final account. Sister Rosetta, Betty Davis, Poly Styrene, Pauline Black.. the list is long.. — Scott Ledgerwood

Scotty “Buttocks” Ledgerwood reached out to me after I posted my DeepDream portrait of Tina Bell (see above), who has been referred to as the “Queen of Grunge.” Ledgerwood was Bell’s friend, bandmate, and manager in her final years. She fronted a Seattle-based band called Bam Bam in 1983 and…

Nettrice Gaskins. “Afro-Lace,” 2019. Created using machine learning.

“In the case of craft, interpretations focus specifically on the way in which content takes form. With art, however, the relation of form and content varies constantly. Computing transforms this relation too: the same content (bits) may take many different forms quite easily, and it may do so after the fact. Of course there is considerable debate as to whether content must take material form…” [McCullough 1996]

In Abstracting Craft: The Practiced Digital Hand author Malcolm McCullough examined the emergence of computation as a medium, rather than just a set of tools, suggesting a growing correspondence between the digital realm…

Yung Jake’s Emoji Self-Portrait

It was easy to make something (online) and put it out in public. People want instant gratification.

In 2013, I covered Yung Jake in an Art21 series that looked at artists from around the globe who were inventing new uses for existing technologies, or fashioning new technologies to fit their interests. They were creating new aesthetic forms and new ways to articulate their identities. Fast forward to March 2021 when Beeple AKA Mike Winkelmann auctioned a piece of crypto art at Christie’s for US$69 million. Suddenly, it seemed like everyone was talking about crypto art. …

Nina Simone + Deep Dream

I grew up in a Southern Baptist church and, as a kid, I yearned to join the youth choir. I wanted to be in the processional on their special night. Each member, in turn, stepped forward, paused, and moved forward diagonally to a new position where they repeated the action in the opposite direction. The result was similar to weaving a textile. Choir members moved into their places behind the pulpit row-by-row, then moved together side-to-side, and this was all done on the beat (rhythm) played by live musicians.

*I didn’t have the knowledge at the time but now I…

Kuba women decorating woven cloth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, photographed in 1970. In the past, women were the main creators of the legendary Kuba textiles. Eliot Elisofon/Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African Art.

February 1 is the start of Black History Month, so I decided to post about heritage algorithms, a term coined by Professor Audrey Bennett (2016). Bennett notes that some cultural artifacts can re-circulate as a form of computational agency. For example, Congolese women who create Kuba textile designs incorporate spontaneity and improvisation in their work to achieve uniqueness and individuality, part of their African aesthetics (Rajagopalan et al.).

Gerald Donald

Right now I’m listening to a panel of Black women talk about the “power of story” and speculative fiction. The panel is one of several talks and events for Sundance Festival 2021. At the top of the festival last week I had, once again, followed Drexciya down a rabbit hole, through Gerald Donald who isn’t with Sundance but speaks to the spirit of the moment.

One has to be careful when bifurcating fact from fiction because the fiction is a projection of what may one day become fact. The only reason it is fiction is because certain technologies have not…

“Who Fears” by Nettrice Gaskins

According to Autodesk, artificial intelligence or AI refers to a broad field of science encompassing a range of subjects from computer science and psychology to philosophy and linguistics. It is primarily concerned with getting computers to do tasks that would normally require human intelligence. Today, there are many subsets of AI, including programs and tools that simulate the neurons in the human brain.

Nettrice Gaskins

Nettrice is a digital artist, academic, cultural critic and advocate of STEAM education.

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