Portrait XO — Creative technologies as a source of inspiration and a tool for self-discovery.
Translated from German — Original text by guest writer Jul:ia Vorkefeld
The word metaverse is not a new word. Actually, we’ve been living in a kind of metaverse for a while now, and those metaverses are called AOL, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
Portrait XO is a multimodal audiovisual artist who doesn’t want to commit herself, either to a single profession or to an art discipline. For the release of her debut AI album ‘Wire’, the artist is collaborating with Twelve x Twelve. In addition to the album, several NFTs and an actual vinyl will be released on the Twelve x Twelve marketplace. Self-confident, goal-oriented and self-reflective, she is making a name for herself in web3 — and the music world. She was a resident at Factory Berlin X Sonar+D, is a regular guest at major trend-setting festivals such as Sonar Festival, Ars Electronica, Amsterdam Dance Event, Reeperbahn festival, and has been awarded several times by the Association of Independent Musicians. Thus, the musician belongs to a new generation of cultural workers who are already setting standards for the upcoming decade.
“We all go through different creative phases in our lives. And so it was a natural evolution to become more multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary. I never felt fully satisfied just expressing myself through one form of creative medium. Maybe that’s why it takes me longer to deliver bodies of work. I also have ADHD and get constantly inspired by a lot of different inputs. I have to switch off the world and go into creation zone where I dive into multiple layers of work. I think that most creatives naturally evolve into new directions because we aren’t single-faceted as humans.” — Portrait XO
In the mid 2000s, attracted by the thriving Trip Hop music and the experimental sounds of Radiohead and Portishead, Portrait XO moved from Los Angeles to London. She was supposed to pursue a career as a classical pianist. But the young talent had other ambitions and set out to find her own musical-artistic path. She rejected the idea of studying music and explored fashion design. The fashion industry quickly turned out not to be the right one for her, as her love for music took over. Following the end of the Britpop era, Portrait XO moved to Berlin. Like many young artists, she found enough space in the city to explore new inspirations, without the need for a large financial cushion compared to London or the USA.
Besides music, the artist is driven by curiosity and the urge to explore. During the Corona pandemic, she used the forced break to further her education and discover creative technologies.
She learned to build her own 3D metaverse website on newart.city and 3D art with the help of YouTube, developed her hybrid AI avatar ‘Nomeee’ and started composing with AI models in collaboration with CJ Carr (½ of Dadabots):
“When I started working with artificial intelligence, a whole new way of working opened up to me. I think it’s really hard to work with creative AI and then not explore all the other areas where you can use AI as a tool for multimodal creatively.”
Since then, Portrait XO has expanded her passion in technology. Fascinated by the seemingly endless possibilities of AI tools, she delves deeper and deeper. Obsessed with the urge to explore, she spends days in front of her computer screen, wanting to understand and learn, to evolve, to sharpen and expand her artistic practice. This approach to new media and web3 tools allows the musician to reinvent herself, and unleashes a creative phase without the pressure of having to constantly produce music. She can now express herself visually, giving expression to her complex personality in the digital space.
“At first, working with these new tools was overwhelming, but at the same time it helped me a lot to develop my personal music and explore the other aspects of myself. It helped me a lot to relax and feel down to earth.” — Portrait XO
By working with the open source community, she discovers the possibility of collaboration and collective work, which gives the artist a foothold in the competition-driven art and music industry. The open source culture of creative coding has had a healing and at the same time overwhelming effect on her. A new way of working opens up. This experience strengthens her belief in the democratization of creative AI tools.
“Everyone should have the right to understand, use and develop these tools freely. I like the idea of creating a community based on software and technology. This technology has such potential and is very inspiring.” — Portrait XO
Portrait XO has grown into a remarkable person and artist over the past few years through her exposure to Web3 technologies. She is experiencing the boom of the AI art movement as a positive turn, excited about this new field gaining more visibility, which was for many years just theory for nerds. Now the results can be experienced. It is finally possible to see and hear how AIs actually behave. What excites the musician most is exploring the limits of technology:
“I’m trying to show the possibilities and limitations of technology, which up until recently AI has been a black box with algorithms hidden by the corporate world. Until recently, there were just companies doing a lot of back-end stuff that we didn’t know what was happening inside. I don’t have all the answers because it’s impossible to know everything about it. Unpredictable nature of the AI models I’ve used are too complex to fully understand what’s happening.”
This visibility also takes the fear out of technology and sparks playful curiosity. But that doesn’t mean Portrait XO isn’t critical about the subject:
“If we actually counted how many times we touch our phone during the day, I’m pretty sure we touch our phone more often than animals, people, or plants. So we should all be a bit critical when it comes to how we use technological tools and processes and the impact they have on ourselves, society, the environment, and so on.”
Therefore, it is important to the artist that many different people remain involved in the growth process of new technologies and innovation tools. So that many different perspectives can continue to develop the technology. And so that truly all people, no matter what their background or social class, can have access to it. The evolutionary journey will not be stoppable, it will continue, unbroken.
Having a richer dialogue from the beginning might help us think differently and try not to repeat certain systemic problems, systemic patterns, and bias. Life has become more complex… Portrait XO recognizes and accepts this complexity and is using that to make new perspectives heard.
“Encounters with technology continue to evoke and trigger new emotions. Emotions we have never felt before. And yes, it is, my form of emotional catharsis, just trying to do my best to translate what life feels like, how it’s happening right now, and try to find meaning in-between the chaos. Where is the humanity between art and technology? Music to me is a binding ingredient like glue that helps me express what I can through words or images, but only felt through sound.”
For Portrait XO, working with technology is also an emotional journey with many intellectual dimensions. Through dialogue with different AIs, she tries to understand herself better, to explore herself. Web 3 tools allow her to tell her own personal stories. These new spheres have provided her with a satisfying, artistic practice that allows her to live out her complex intellect.
“We are all becoming like avatars. Or maybe we’ve become something in between, which is a natural evolution. I think as humans we have always explored all the different ways we can express our identity in interesting ways, whether it’s wanting to be completely different, another version of ourselves, or bettering ourselves. I think these aspects of ourselves are not going to go away. I think pseudonym culture started with AOL. We’re going to keep developing new ways of expressing ourselves as emerging technologies push us into new directions for self-expression.” — Portrait XO
With confidence, Portrait XO looks to the future with a positive and critical mindset as she contemplates the digital evolution of humanity. This evolution is also the story of her own journey. From Los Angeles to Berlin. From an analog Britpop-loving musician to a transdisciplinary Web3 artist.
Check out Portrait XO’s latest NFT campaign for the launch of her AI debut album WIRE, here.