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Vikki Bardot is a multi-faceted AI artist, formerly a professional in the film industry, a musician, and a painter. Her style is influenced by the aesthetics of early photography and avant-garde movements. Often incorporating intertextual references, her art explores themes of time, femininity, the body, and transformation.

Her latest AI collection is inspired by Antonioni's film L'AVVENTURA, exploring themes of forgotten femininity and spirituality through a visual style symbolizing imminent disappearance. This series serves as a philosophical reflection on untold narratives, drawing parallels to the gradual erosion of essential values in modern society.

In conversation with Anika Meier, Vikki Bardot discusses her background in film and music, her thoughts on AI and the timelessness of art history, and the importance of storytelling for her work as an artist.

Anika Meier: You have studied flute and classical music history at the conservatory. How did you get into art?

Vikki Bardot: My journey into art began at the conservatory, where my immersion in classical music history broadened my appreciation for various art forms and art history. During that period, I developed a deep interest in cinema, painting, photography, sculpture, and video art. These experiences cultivated a rich and diverse creative foundation, and I found myself drawn to the visual arts more and more every year.

The conservatory wasn't just about music for me; it was a period of exploration and discovery across multiple artistic disciplines. During the day, I was a girl playing Bach and Mozart, but at night I was doing oil paintings, attending film festivals, and freelancing for a rock’n’roll magazine.

AM: Music is not your only background. You have immersed yourself in the film industry for many years? What have you learned in the film industry that is now helpful when creating artworks, and navigating the new online art world?

VB: Through films, I have gained a deep understanding of the importance of storytelling and visual aesthetics, which are crucial elements in my art today. I am a hardcore cinephile, having watched over 5000 movies, mainly European arthouse and classics. Additionally, working a decade in film distribution allowed me to grasp the business side of the films, and also it helped me gain discipline and professionalism. Traveling and attending international film festivals exposed me to a variety of perspectives and creative expressions. This entire experience honed my ability to curate and present art in compelling ways.

AM: When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

VB: I always wanted to be an artist since my childhood. The desire was always there, but it became more defined over time. After spending years mastering classical music, I clearly felt that instead of focusing on virtuosity in a single craft, I wanted a multi-faceted art journey.

Vikki Bardot, Lux Aeterna, AI generation, 2022.

AM: Was drawing and painting a creative outlet for you as a child?

VB: Drawing and painting were a creative outlet for me as a child, but music and writing were just as important to me. As a child, I was more of a researcher than an experimenter. I vividly remember falling in love with Impressionism at an early age and quickly becoming an art history geek. At an early age, I also fell in love with the movies.

AM: What fascinated you about Impressionism at such a young age? And how did you become an art history geek? By reading books and visiting exhibitions?

VB: Impressionism hooked me with its wild, free-flow brush strokes—a breath of fresh air compared to the strict, disciplined world of classical music. I remember my first visit to the Louvre at 11, standing in awe of many paintings, especially the works of Degas and Manet. That moment ignited a lifelong passion. From then on, I devoured art history books, haunted film festivals, and roamed countless exhibitions. I was naturally inclined to geek out over many things, and becoming an art history enthusiast was a natural progression for me at a young age.

Balancing my life with polar opposites has always been my thing. While studying classical music, with all its structure and precision, I was also a freelance writer for a rock'n'roll magazine, diving headfirst into the indie music scene. The rebellious energy of rock'n'roll was the perfect counterbalance to my rigid training and became a vital part of my creative journey.

Nowadays, people tend to think of Impressionism as a boring old classic movement, but at its core, it was a rebellious movement that liberated art from its confines. Like every new movement, it had some punk in it. Impressionists broke away from traditional techniques and subjects, embracing innovation and capturing the essence of a moment. This spirit of rebellion and innovation deeply resonated with me and continues to influence my approach to art today.

Vikki Bardot, The Saddest Music in the World, AI generation, 2023.

AM: Do you remember when you heard about AI for the first time?

VB: My first encounter with AI was watching HAL in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY when I was in high school. However, my serious interest in AI began in 2018 when my interests evolved towards video games, digital art, and new forms of storytelling. After that point, I went through an intense period of bingeing and researching anything I could find on cognitive sciences, consciousness, artificial intelligence, linguistics, etc.

I read writers like Max Tegmark and Kevin Kelly, even though these subjects revolving around AI had nothing to do with my life at that point. At that time, I had no idea that I would one day use AI tools to create art, but later on, that period turned out to be incredibly beneficial when I started experimenting with AI tools for my art.

AM: What were your thoughts back then?

VB: At first, when I was reading about AI in general, it wasn't about art. My initial exploration into AI was driven by a desire to understand more about myself, consciousness, and the concept of emergence. I was fascinated by the potential of AI to unlock new dimensions of human understanding and experience. From the start, I viewed AI as a revolution that would completely take over the left-brain-oriented tasks from humanity, prompting us to rediscover our more intuitive and feminine side.

It wasn't until 2021 that my research shifted focus to AI art. When I encountered AI text-to-image and text-to-video tools, something clicked. I felt an immediate connection and realized that these tools were the new storytelling mediums that would shape and change the course of art. This epiphany led me to quit my job and fully embrace my passion as a full-time artist.

AM: Is creating art with AI different from, let’s say, working on a painting?

VB: Creating art with AI is very different, especially compared to traditional painting. Creating art with AI is more about synthesizing and remixing various elements, making it a holistic and integrative process.

Traditional painting often delves into the individual subconscious, where the artist's personal touch and craft play a significant role. In contrast, AI art taps into a collective subconscious, blending diverse inputs to create something new. Painting in its traditional form is rooted in craft and technique, while AI art is driven by vision, ideation, and innovation.

The AI process allows for a unique collaboration between human intuition and machine precision, leading to unexpected and fascinating results.

AM: Painting has a very long history, compared to that, AI is a very young medium. How do you feel as an artist working with a technology that is evolving at such a high speed? Do you have the feeling that you have to keep up?

VB: AI is a very young medium, but it draws from the entire history of visual arts. Photography is a young medium, but it uses the visual language of painting. Cinema is a young medium, but it incorporates the language and narratology of both painting and photography. Video games are a young medium, but they integrate all the audiovisual arts that came before them. So yes, AI is a young medium, but it is connected to the evolution of all the visual arts that preceded it. People tend to forget that and see AI art as a new medium without a ground.

From a technology perspective, I don’t constantly have that rush feeling that I have to keep up. But luckily, as a full-time artist, I find the time to keep up and experiment with all the new software, new versions, and new features being released every day.

However, it’s the history that truly feeds my creativity, not the technological features. I constantly go through the pages of art history and old photography, listen to vinyl records, and watch classic films. For me the magic happens at the intersection of historical richness and cutting-edge innovation. So while I stay updated with the latest tech, it’s the timelessness of art history that truly fuels my work.

Vikki Bardot, Lux Perpetua, AI generation, 2024.

AM: What were the responses when you started sharing your first AI work?

VB: The responses were overwhelmingly positive and motivating. I was encouraged a lot by the enthusiastic comments I received. In real life, people who were far from this technology welcomed it with great curiosity, asking many questions. And in the web3 space, many artists mentioned that the look and feel of my AI works were very different from most AI art out there. This positive feedback reaffirmed my belief that AI could enhance and deepen the artistic process, pushing us to rethink and reimagine creativity in the digital age.

AM: How do you respond to criticism regarding artists working with AI and the assertion by some that this does not qualify as art?

VB: I am fine with criticism when it comes to artists working with AI since there is a long history of new movements getting initially rejected and labeled as not art. I also have a TEDx talk from 2023, where I explore this recurring theme of every modern art movement being dismissed at first.

This pattern of the old establishment initially rejecting new expressions fascinates me, but I understand it is not easy for people to accept new perspectives and innovations. So I see this as normal, a continuation of the same old pattern in art history. This is how you expand the vocabulary of art–by finding new ways of expressions through new mediums. If we are not prepared to receive criticism on this path, then there is no point in being pioneers in a field.

Over the past century, modern and postmodern movements have consistently redefined what art can be. From the early 20th century onward, artists began to challenge the traditional focus on technical skill and craftsmanship. Movements like Dada, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, and Conceptual Art shifted the established norms in both the effort-based production domain and how art is perceived. These movements questioned the very nature of art, pushing it towards a more conceptual and idea-driven practice.

Art has progressively moved away from the constraints of manual skill and towards the realm of vision and concept. This shift has allowed artists to explore new mediums and forms, liberating art from the traditional confines of technique. I consider AI as the next step in this evolution. While some may see this as a threat to traditional artistry, I view it as a natural progression in the liberation of art. This technology doesn't diminish the role of the artist; instead, it expands the possibilities of what art can be.

Vikki Bardot, TEDxAtakum, This Is not an Art Talk, September 2023.

AM: You have just mentioned how important storytelling is for you when working with AI. How do you approach creating a new body of work such as your new series L’AVVENTURA that is part of the exhibition THE PATH TO THE PRESENT, 1954-2024 at EXPANDED.ART in Berlin?

VB: As Muriel Rukeyser puts it, the universe is made of stories, not atoms. For me, art is an evolving journey for telling stories in ways that haven't been told before. It’s like a language that constantly evolves and conquers new forms of expression. I am mainly interested in experimenting with narrational forms and textures. You can tell your story with your narrative, but you can also tell the story with narration, with the form itself.

I believe that in today’s modern world, femininity is lost and forgotten. Spirituality too. We have lost the connection with our essence. In my latest work, L’AVVENTURA, I continue to experiment with ambiguity and lack of clarity as a narrational technique. The stylistic form itself is the commentary here. The intentionally out-of-focus style, faded hues, and aged analog film textures serve as a mirror to the vanishing presence of spirituality and femininity. These sacred elements, once central to our identity, now seem distant and out of reach.

When creating a new body of work like L’AVVENTURA, I focus on how formal choices dictate not only the aesthetic and atmosphere but also the meaning that emerges from the content. I enjoy creating an intertextual dialogue with other pieces in art history. Visual storytelling is a collective pool, and artists use others' building blocks and references to deepen metaphorical and allegorical meaning. Like many of my works, my new series L’AVVENTURA carries references and homages to other artworks.

Vikki Bardot, L'AVVENTURA #9, AI generation, 2024.

AM: When you first showed me L’AVVENTURA and shared your thoughts about it, I felt like looking at scenes from a movie. Were you inspired by some of the 5.000 movies you have seen?

VB: My collections usually draw inspiration from movies, and my new collection has influences from Antonioni, Tarkovsky, Reygadas, and Malick. L’AVVENTURA, in particular, has a special connection to Antonioni's film of the same name. Antonioni's L'AVVENTURA is a pinnacle of modernist cinema, known for its unconventional narrative structure and focus on the alienation and isolation of individuals in modern society. It is one of the greatest films of all time.

In L'AVVENTURA, we follow a couple and their group of friends on a boat vacation. They stop at an island, and early in the film, a young woman disappears. The group starts searching for her, but the plot soon shifts. The movie gradually forgets this central mystery, and instead, it focuses on a new romantic relationship, leaving the disappearance unresolved. It's as if the film is about the disappearance of the disappearance itself.

While developing my series, I was captivated by the idea of this forgotten woman—abandoned not only by her friends but by the narrative itself. I began to imagine a ghostly, forgotten woman on an island, all by herself. My series metaphorically takes place within the universe of L'AVVENTURA, exploring the untold part of the story. I consider my series a philosophical exercise in exploring the unseen aspects of that story universe, or "fabula," as the Russian formalists would call it.

I chose to create a visual style where the woman is always about to vanish—out of focus and blurry. This aesthetic reflects the theme of a woman forgotten and about to disappear, serving as a powerful allegory for the current state of the world. We seem to forget true femininity and spirituality day by day.

L’AVVENTURA is a 1960 Italian drama film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.

AM: Some artists say, "Art doesn’t need to have a message". What are your thoughts on this? L’AVVENTURA seems to have a message.

VB: I think even not having a message is a message. So, of course, I believe that art doesn't need to have a message, but it's theoretically impossible to achieve that. Every piece of art, intentionally or not, communicates something.

L’AVVENTURA does have a message, but I am not a fan of literal and direct constructions of meaning. I prefer to convey my themes through subtle references, formal choices, and allegorical symbolism. The message in L’AVVENTURA arises from its visual tone and stylistic choices. It reflects how the essence of femininity and spirituality seems to slip away from our modern world, much like a song once known, now fading and forgotten. I aim to evoke a sense of loss and contemplation.

Vikki Bardot, L'AVVENTURA #32, AI generation, 2024.

AM: Do you have any advice for artists that start to work with AI and have the goal of being a full-time artists?

VB: Feed your soul with art, lots of art. Don’t think about the market. Create and experiment repeatedly until you lose yourself in the flow and find yourself searching for something you can’t clearly define, but deep down you know you need to.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is, "You don’t really begin working creatively until you are at a point where you don’t know," by Vera Chytilova. This essentially summarizes my approach. Embrace the unknown and let it guide your creative process. I believe intuition is key when working with AI.

AM: What are your thoughts on the future of AI and art?

VB: I believe the future of AI and art is poised to be transformative and paradigm-shifting. Just as the Industrial Revolution altered the paradigm and shifted society towards a production/function-based model, the AI revolution will lead us towards a more flexible, creative, and playful paradigm.

As AI continues to advance, it will gradually take over many of the logical, detail-oriented tasks that currently consume our time. This transition will enable artists to delve deeper into their right-brain, intuitive, and holistic perspectives, rediscovering the symbolically feminine aspects of creativity that emphasize intuition, emotion, and a more integrated way of thinking. Eventually, AI will surpass humans in performing most left-brain tasks, including handling generic creative ideas and jobs more efficiently. Therefore, the true role of artists will be to explore right-brain creativity in uncharted, intuitive territories that may currently seem irrational.

AI's proficiency in managing logical, detail-oriented work will empower artists to explore deeper, more integrative, and avant-garde forms of expression. It will democratize art creation by making sophisticated creative tools accessible to a wider audience. This shift will not only redefine artistic boundaries but also give rise to new professions centered around creativity and design.

Over time, artists will resemble orchestra conductors or film directors more closely. Pursuit of perfection and virtuosity within a single domain will yield to versatility and cross-disciplinary creativity. The upcoming generation of artists will be those who can seamlessly blend various art forms—engaging in visual art, film direction, music composition, game design, and more. This multifaceted approach will pave the way for a richer and more diverse creative environment, where the lines between different art forms blur, fostering the emergence of innovative and hybrid art forms.

AM: Thank you for taking the time for this conversation.