The generative identity of Walter Vanhaerents

Identity num. 18 (detail)

I've been designing and developing a new creative framework for about a year now: a flexible process of generative artistic creation that transforms meaning into artworks. My last project, Stardust, was a first experiment around this concept.

While working on it, some months ago, Happiness Brussels, an innovative belgium communication agency, contacted me with the challenge of transforming a Lexus IS 300h hybrid car into a work of art. But not the usual transformation. They wanted the car to actually generate artworks. It was perfect: a dream opportunity to put my new creative framework at work. So I took the challenge.

Each time the driver would start a trip, a new artwork would be created, using real time data from the car sensors. The final artwork would be an interpretation of my very own hand brushwork with one of my generative aesthetics, affected by the driving style and duration of the travel.

It was clear to me that the generated artworks should be portraits of the driver. And the unifying theme would be the construction of the human indentity (one of my favourite artistic research subjects):

Who are you? Who will you become? Who could you be? Who do you want to be? Your identity is the hybrid product of genetics and experience (your relationship with the environment). Most of your external appearance is determined by your genes and your face crystallizes this aspect of your identity. Your portrait is how others identify you. But for you to become you, you must live. You must experience life. Your genes were not your choice. Not yet. But you completely decide how you live... well not really. Under this illusion of control lies the real hybrid nature of human experience. You are shaped by choices and chance. By will and pure randomness.

So this art project would be all about human identity. An interactive art installation that records a part of the driver's experience and uses it to create a collection of artworks. It starts from genetics (in the form of the driver's photo portrait) and it shapes this appearance with choice and chance. The medium is a mixture of software, computers and automotive engineering.

Generative art outsources artistic / aesthetic decisions to processes out of the artist's control, surrendering part of the decisions in the creation process. In this case, the generative artworks will be affected by driver decisions and random traffic events. Once the artist’s intellectual and execution process is modeled into computer code (software that I've developed), an opportunity arises: a bigger part of the artistic potential can now be realized using generative assistants. Just as all potential artworks are dormant within an artist. All the potential “you’s” are dormant within you. This is a relevant medium and process to realize a metaphor of identity: a collection of artistic portraits made by the hybrid influence of genetics, will power and chance. A series of possible "you's".

The driver of this unique art experiment should be someone special. So the project team contacted Mr. Walter Vanhaerents, a belgian entrepreneur and passionate art collector. He is behind one of the most important private contemporary art collections: The Vanhaerents Art Collection. Mr. Vanhaerents was intrigued by our artistic proposition and he kindly (and selflessly) decided to participate. He will become a fundamental part of the creation process.

This is how "The Generative Identity of Walter Vanhaerents" art installation and art project were born. If you want to know more about it and see the ongoing collection of artworks created by the interaction of Mr. Vanhaerents with the art installation, please head to the official public website Art is Motion

I want to thank Walter Vanhaerents for accepting the challenge of this unusual art project. And also, thanks to all the wonderful people at Lexus Belgium, Hapinness Brussels and many others. Especially the team: Sophie, Thierry, Ross and Arnaud, who worked so hard to make this idea come true. Thank you guys!