About Masked Reality
In this work, Agrawal uses artificial intelligence to explore the subject of faces, traditions and identity, especially its malleability in the age of technology. He generates faces in the form of a live interactive work, drawing inspiration from traditional mask cultures of different regions of India.
Throughout our years of existence as a culture, we’ve crafted and performed several kinds of rituals and ceremonies, both collective and individualistic as acts of transformation and transcendence. Masks and face transformative decorations have been fundamental across the Indian culture in our journeys into unknown realms, in our celebrations of the malleability of human representation, or as a tool for practical disguise and entertainment. It helps us engage with our world from a completely new vantage point, augmenting our sense of self, very similar to what technology, especially AI enables today. What happens when these media of transcendence collide? Can we teach machines about our cultural heritage, and as a result make them an instrument for our own exploration and engagement with our heritage.
In this piece, an audience member’s face is transformed into faces inspired from dance rituals of southern India in real-time, one side being the Kathakali face painting depicting a female form, the other being a Theyyam face painting, depicting a male form, highlighting the fluidity of identity.
The artwork does not collect or store personal data in its processes.
Harshit Agrawal is an artificial intelligence and new media artist. Through his practice, he explores what he calls the ‘human-machine creativity continuum’- the melding of human and machine creative agency. He uses machines and algorithms and often creates them as an essential part of his art process, embracing becoming the cyborg artist. He often juxtaposes traditional art media and tools along with machines and computation, creating a space to both direct, and be guided by the machine.
Agrawal was the only Indian artist among 7 international AI art pioneers in one of the world’s first AI art shows in a contemporary art gallery (Gradient Descent at Nature Morte). His work is part of the permanent exhibition at the largest computer science museum in the world, HNF museum in Germany. He has exhibited work as solo and group exhibitions at other premier museums, galleries and art festivals around the world, like the Ars Electronica Festival (Austria), CADAF Contemporary and Digital Art Fair, HI-RESOLUTION Exhibition for New Year’s Ball Drop at Times Square (USA), Tate Modern (UK), Asia Culture Center (Korea), QUT Art Museum (Australia), Museum of Tomorrow (Brazil), AI Everything Art Show (Dubai), School for Poetic Computation- Alt-Ai (NYC), Art Center Nabi (Korea), Laval Virtual (France), ISEA (Canada). He is currently the only Indian to feature at Superrare – a premium crypto-art (NFTs) platform. His work has also been extensively covered in international media, including BBC, New York Times, often as one of the founding artists of the AI art movement.
Along with this, Agrawal carries out academic research too, having published several research papers on creation tools at art and human computer interaction conferences. He is a graduate of the MIT Media Lab and IIT Guwahati and has carried out art residencies at Museum of Tomorrow (Brazil), Art Center Nabi (Korea) and X-Lab (Japan).
Through his work, Agrawal invites people to reflect upon and re-evaluate their ever-evolving relationship with technology. He uses AI, drones, sensors, augmented reality technologies creating both extreme and alternate narratives than what technology companies and creators bring forth, providing a platform for the audience to explicitly engage and converse with these, than being implicitly steered by them.