Computer-Generated Portraits Created From Images Of The Universe

Sergio Albiac's <i>Stardust</i> project mixes crowd-sourced pictures with images from the Hubble Space Telescope to create awesome portraits.

There's a cheesy pick up line that starts with "Is your dad a thief?" to which the answer is supposed to be "no" then the reply goes "So who stole the stars out of the sky and put them in your eyes then?". Now, before you go and purge yourself from that abomination, the answer could well be "Sergio Albiac stole them".

The Barcelona-based artist's latest project sees him creating a series of portraits based around the concept of nucleosynthesis or "the process of creation of new atomic nuclei from pre-existing matter that takes place at cosmic scale". To do this he'll be sourcing images from the Hubble Space Telescope and using them to generate images using custom software from user-submitted pictures, resulting in some abstract portraits dotted with stars, galaxies, cosmic dust, and other space matter.

The artist sees the project as an experiment, one in which he hopes to create as many portraits as possible over a certain time period (it started on 18th of June 2013 and seems to be still going) using an automated process to aid him. Anyone can submit a portrait online and Albiac will create three portraits, what he calls "generative collages", from the submission mixed with images from Hubble. These will then be uploaded to the Stardust Portrait exhibition Flickr page.

The project, as well as creating unusual and totally cosmic portraits of people, aims to look at how technology can help an artist to realise and create more artworks than they could do on their own. He explains on the project's web page:

Life is finite. Creativity isn't. An artist has the potential to create infinite artworks but only some of them will see the light due to the constraint of time. What if we use technology to outsource the creation of art so more of these potential artworks are finally created? Modelling artistic decisions into software would provide a generative assistant that could even survive an artist in the creation of meaningful works of visual art. This project is a first experiment around this concept.

Albiac has been exploring the idea of generative portraits for some time, creating still images of his subjects from randomized newspaper clippings, before moving on to moving image portraits where he used online videos to generate a video painting of the Queen of England. And now he's decided to give technology even more control. It's not unusual for artists to outsource their work, artists like Damien Hirst and Mark Wallinger outsource the creation of their art to project managers and teams of young artists. Albiac is outsourcing it to software.

You can check out some of the results below and head to the Flickr page for many more. If you want to get involved, you can find out how here.

All images courtesy of Sergio Albiac