Walking through Shanshui (2019) is an interactive installation based on AI using Generative Adversarial Networks and is dedicated to providing participants with a similar experience of creating Shanshui as in ancient times with various technologies that enable us to recreate the experience of moving through nature. Chinese Shanshui, also known as literati painting, is a type of ink brush painting that depicts the natural landscape in a semi-abstract fashion. Shanshui 山水 literally means mountain and water, and the style reflects the smoothness of water embodying the shape of the mountainous landscape in the painting. Back in their days, ancient Chinese scholar-artists (literates) traveled and immersed themselves in the great nature and after went back, they fuse their memories and present their Shanshui world on canvas.
This piece seeks to honor these traditions and experiences to create Shanshui paintings that capture the graceful movements of travelers in natural spaces, and attempts to mimic the traveling and walking experience with a simplified tracking model – walking in a room-size installation. The installation uses position tracking as input to generate Shanshui from participant’s movements and to paint with a custom generative Sketch-to-Shanshui translation model and detects the participant’s position in real-time and automatically traces it to generate a Shanshui painting instantly. Taking advantage of the advancement of Artificial Intelligence technologies, artist uses AI to help to generate a painting from a participant’s walking experience and aims to use this project to establish a creative and collaborative AI experience, where AI captivates the imagination to enhance creativity, especially for casual participants, including younger generations, that have a passion for art without a formal training in the area.
Artist named this system “Walking Through Shanshui,” not only to describe the general interaction but also referring to the origins of ancient Shanshui painting practices. With the capability of AI, we walk, travel and present related memories and experiences in the form of Chinese traditional art. Deep cultural heritage meets rapidly changing forms of art powered by technological advancements allows us to rediscover traditions and allow their essence to evolve through emerging technology while maintaining elements of both familiar and new. This opens up a new form of expression by extending the form and finesse of the artist to the curiosity of the observer, in effect making these audience an integral part of the art itself via an interactive display. This project tries to help us find the inner artist in ourselves and brings significant value by turning the observer into an artist for others to visualize their journey in real time. In other words, AI can bring art to the masses and help them express themselves seamlessly through technology.