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The Ugly Ottawan 

3D printed  12'' x 6''x6''  2024

02_The Ugly Ottawin side view_2024_3D Printed Resin_30 x 15 x 15cm_$0.jpg

I wanted to explore how AI algorithms would depict some of the ideas I have been working with throughout my career. Like many artists, I find generative AI intriguing, unsettling, but also underwhelming. It can also be highly derivative and intellectually lazy. However, like any new tool, I feel it is worthy of exploration. For this project, I sought to answer how AI would filter mundane and quintessentially Canadian activities like a future hike in a Canadian national park. Moreover, how would it account for unfolding climate catastrophe and unrestrained technological acceleration in these daily activities? And can this output ultimately inspire a work of figurative art?

 I proceeded to create a loose collage of reference images by feeding prompts such as "a hike in a national park in 2050 after 1.5 degrees warming" or "an ugly chapter in Canadian history historically reenacted in Gatineau Park on Canada day". The results were surreal—somewhere between environmental disaster and a cybernetic utopia. I then composited this reference material with old historical paintings of Canadian exploration and exploitation, showing a connection between an unsettling future and a problematic past. I called the piece simply "The Ugly Ottawan" to highlight this through line. The final design used imagery from both these sources. It depicts a person in a “hiking suit” similar to the early diving suits from the turn of the last century. The figure has decorated themselves with branches and leaves, alluding to either a voyager waving the maple leaf or a camouflaged mercenary hiding behind the maple leaf.

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