I have long been interested in the idea that humans themselves embody an infinite number of potential algorithms. We imagine things like personal choice and free will determine our behavior; yet we are becoming increasingly aware that everything from our romantic relationships to our political preferences to our sartorial selections can be expressed as and shaped by algorithms.
There is much debate about precisely what it means to be human now, at a time when we seem to be merging with, or replaced by, artificial intelligence. For instance, while historian Yuval Noah Harari famously argued that human beings are fundamentally algorithmic organisms, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio cautioned against reductive analogies between human life and computer code. It strikes me that this debate has implications for artists: Why do we make the work we make the way we make it?
My work is made using a computer-generated algorithm, which I use to create a “score” that determines the patterns of the knitted textiles that I make by hand using mostly organic materials. Yet the process is not one-way; as an artist, rather than simply executing a set of instructions, I become engaged in a feedback loop that finds me making subtle, perhaps even unconscious, adjustments in response to a wide range of personal and external variables, as well as to information I derive from observing the work itself being made.
The work in I, Algorithm represents my most direct engagement with AI to date, and it takes place through an act of recursion. Rather than build an algorithm using an external data set, I had the idea to make a body of work based on what AI thinks my work is. I hired a data scientist to write an AI machine learning program using my work as the data set. That program then generated a set of instructions that would allow me to make “a Channing Hansen artwork”—or, at least, whatever the AI thinks that is.
These works contain elements from all my previous bodies of work, recombined in both familiar and unexpected ways. The fibers, the stitches, the colors – even the frame dimensions – represent the AI’s interpretation of how “I” make my work. The titles use words drawn from all my previous artist statements, randomized and recombined using an algorithm so that they sound like “Channing Hansen titles.”
– Channing Hansen
Channing Hansen (b.1972) lives and works in Los Angeles, where he is represented by Marc Selwyn Fine Art. Stephen Friedman Gallery represents the artist in London. Hansen studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and the Mountain School of Art, Los Angeles. His most recent solo exhibitions include Entanglements, Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA; Pattern Recognition, Simon Lee Gallery, Hong Kong; and Morphogenesis, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, UK. Selected group exhibitions include Made in LA, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Thread, Long Beach Museum of Art, CA; Inherent Structure, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH; Alan Shields Project, Van Doren Waxter, NYC; Textile Abstraction, Casas Riegner, Bogota, CO; 99 cents or less, Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, MI; Knowledges, Mount Wilson Observatory, Los Angeles, CA; and Intertwined, The Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, NYC. His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; The Ahmanson Foundation, Los Angeles, CA; The Frederick R. Weisman Foundation, Los Angeles, CA; The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, NL.