Infinite Petals

  • For Infinite Petals, Sarah Meyohas trained a GAN on a dataset of 100,000 physical rose petals to generate endless, new...

    For Infinite Petals, Sarah Meyohas trained a GAN on a dataset of 100,000 physical rose petals to generate endless, new and unique petals. The dataset was compiled during the artist’s previous project Cloud of Petals, when sixteen male workers gathered to photograph the petals, one by one, at the site of the former Bell Labs in New Jersey, where such innovations as the transistor, silicon solar cell, and numerous programming languages underwent critical developments. Meyohas conceived a real-life algorithm which dictated that human hands must individually open the flower, pick the petal, place it under the lens, press the shutter, and upload the image to a server. These images were then used to train a GAN, or Generative Adversarial Network—a technology that, in 2017, was still in its infancy, significantly predating the contemporary boom in artificial intelligence. The workers also set aside one petal per rose that they considered the most beautiful and put it in a press—preserving 3,291 petals as physical artifacts. These petals went on to back Bitchcoin, Meyohas’s historic proto-NFT from 2015. 

    In Infinite Petals, the physical petals are transformed into gridded arrangements of interpolating digital petals behaving according to algorithms of varied complexity: checkerboards, concentric squares, and John Conway’s Game of Life, to name a few. Each of the GAN’s individual petals consists of 512 dimensions, producing an incomprehensible latent space mirroring the vastness of today’s machine intelligence and our digital world. Infinite Petals is a continued exploration of algorithmic beauty and the phenomenon of emergence within both natural and manmade systems. Variations of the Infinite Petals have been exhibited at the Flint Institute of Arts and the Ming Contemporary Art Museum, and the short film documenting Cloud of Petals is in the permanent collection of the Centre Pompidou, alongside two examples from Bitchcoin. Infinite Petals is currently on view as part of Chanel Culture Fund’s new public art project, The Window, featuring a series of digital art installations visible 24 hours a day at the ground floor of the Time & Life building on Bruton Street, London.