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A deep dive into J Vega's fantastical world of AI and generative art

In a conversation with STIR, American artist J Vega talks about his extensive AI art and audiovisual creative practice, and the road that led him to it.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Jan 30, 2023

American audiovisual artist J Vega creates fantastical visual art videos that blend the familiar with the strange, creating beautiful worlds that one immediately wishes to inhabit, or at least visit. However, the former may be too overwhelming for the human mind, as his fictional universe is constantly shifting and transforming; melding with itself in mind-bending ways. He tells STIR, "My work is driven by a desire to challenge perceptions and inspire curiosity. My art should feel like a dream, an astral projection, a visionary experience: something engaging and familiar yet inexplicable and full of hidden meaning and messages.”

Acceleration of Technological Innovation, 2022, video Video: J Vega; Courtesy of Wilderness Studio

Discussing visual elements in his art, the visual artist explains that he’s always loved the bright shamanic works of Pablo Amaringo, the philosophical visualisations of Paul Laffoley, and the etheric surrealism of Remedios Varo. He also admits what savvy audience members already know quite well from a cursory glance at his practice—his current work incorporates vintage sci-fi and fantasy, vaporwave and pop art, in order to create his unique personal blend that elevates each inspiration to a new height. Further, in our conversation, the digital artist discusses another crucial aspect of his work—his sound. He tells STIR, “As a producer, I have worked with all kinds of artists in virtually all genres, so my influences are wide ranging. My current musical output includes a combination of human-made electronica and AI-generated sound, which I am calling Neurowave.”

Go Slow, 2022, video Video: J Vega; Courtesy of Wilderness Studio

Vega hit early musical success as a frontman for the band The Speeds, through which he was approached for several TV licensing deals, ranging from Laguna Beach to The Real World to The Kardashians. In a note on his website, he declares, “The band garnered worldwide airplay and hit the college radio charts hard but split before a meaningful legacy was established.” This, however, did not stop Vega from achieving success artistically, as he then joined indie darlings Boca Chica, as guitarist and producer, which he undertook in his Wilderness Recording Studio. The American artist would go on to work with the likes of YouTube star Josh Herbert, crypto influencer Ryan ‘King’ Solomon and Grammy-winning producer Mark Kramer, among others and play instruments on hundreds of recordings by artists in nearly every style, till eventually pursuing his enthralling visual works, reflecting his desire to discover alternate vectors to the mind.

Inside the Infinity Dream Helmet, 2022, video Video: J Vega; Courtesy of Wilderness Studio

Expounding on this aspect of his creative journey, his website states, “Vega turned to exploring other ways to influence the psyche through art and stimuli, creating novel audio encoding techniques, several of which he presented with the psychoacoustic experiment VNYVRT, a 13-part video cryptogram with ipsative testing. This led to the 10-part Violet V, an avant-garde video series and the hour-long audiovisual psychotronic installation Psionic SympathiserI.” Vega would then begin incorporating extensive generative art within his work, and is now considered to be a pioneer in the AI art  movement. He sees this as a pivot from his practice, however after experiencing his present oeuvre, one wonders if his foray into AI wasn’t in fact, a means of ‘completing’ his creative form; if this isn’t what Vega’s audiovisual craft was always meant to be, in its totality. Then again, this might be tantamount to suggesting that the artist has nowhere left to go, and this could not be further from the truth—Vega will undoubtedly find ways to keep innovating within his work, and will continue to create fascinating pieces as a result.

Voyager Two, 2022, video, J Vega Video: J Vega; Courtesy of Wilderness Studio

Discussing his relationship with artificial intelligence, Vega tells STIR, "In the past couple of years, we have seen a vast emergence of experimental, new open-source AI tools. These caught my imagination last year, and I started working with VQGAN-CLIP, Pytti, Disco Diffusion, and most recently, Stable Diffusion." He continues, shedding light on his creative process, saying, “My current workflow would be to start with generating the video with one of these tools. During the 1-12 hours that the video takes to generate, I’ll create the music, either in Pro Tools with synto and drum machines, or by using an AI audio generator like Jukebox or Mubert. Feeding the audio back and forth between man and machine can make for an interesting, evolving collaboration. All of these tools are still in their infancy, and results can be refreshingly bizarre and chaotic. Once the audio and video are all created, everything gets synced and heavily treated in Adobe Premiere.”

It is fascinating to consider just how much of Vega’s current work uses AI as its primary driver. The word “collaboration” as he uses it is perfect, as the machine, in this case, is more alive than perhaps it has been in the creative process of most other digital artists. It is almost a partner practitioner, which raises the perplexing question—within the increasingly digital world we live in, at what point does the machine take over and become the leading artist?

Profile Picture, 2022, image, J Vega | J Vega | STIRworld
J Vega Image: Courtesy of Wilderness Studio

Following the exhibition at art galleries for his new practice in Italy and Spain, at the close of 2021, Vega has managed to garner millions of views on social media, and was crowned the ‘Artist of the Month’ by blockchain innovator Speaking about his recent collaborations and gigs, he says, “In the past year, my work has been in exhibitions in Italy, Spain, and Germany. I also contributed visual effects to videos for major label artists A$AP Ant / A$AP Rocky’s The God Hour and Ken Car$on’s Run + Ran, with over eight million views between them.”

Vega is optimistically looking at the future—now and ever the innovator—dreaming of what lies ahead for his constantly evolving practice. Concluding our conversation, with his plans for the future, he says, “Going forward, I’ll be continuing to work with new media tools as they develop, and looking for ways to incorporate them into telling my stories. I have got music and video collaborations lined up with several amazing artists, and I hope to be involved with more exhibitions around the world.”

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