Harshit Agrawal


Masked Reality (Interactive Version and 3D Sculptures) (2019)

In this work, Harshit uses artificial intelligence (A.I) to explore the subject of faces, traditions and identity, especially its malleability in the age of technology. He generates faces in the form of live interactive work or as sculptural objects, drawing inspiration from traditional mask cultures of different regions of India.

Throughout our years of existence as a culture, we’ve crafted and performed several kinds of rituals and ceremonies, both collective and individualistic as acts of transformation and transcendence. Masks and face transformative decorations have been fundamental across the Indian culture in our journeys into unknown realms, in our celebrations of the malleability of human representation, or as a tool for practical disguise and entertainment. It helps us engage with our world from a completely new vantage point, augmenting our sense of self, very similar to what technology, especially A.I enables today. What happens when these media of transcendence collide? Can we teach machines about our cultural heritage, and as a result make them an instrument for our own exploration and engagement with our heritage.
In the interactive piece, an audience’s face is transformed into faces inspired from dance rituals of southern India in real-time, one side being the Kathakali face painting depicting a female form, the other being a Theyyam face painting, depicting a male form, highlighting the fluidity of identity.

The sculptural objects have been created using Artificial Intelligence (A.I) too, initially as images, which are then modelled into a 3D form, 3D printed and painted over, referencing the original A.I generated image. The machine is trained on a curated selection of masks from central India for this.