New Wolf-Gordon Wallcoverings Catalyze a Conversation on AI

Designed by seven creatives and Wolf-Gordon’s CCO Marybeth Shaw, the “Project: HI > AI” collection reflects on the relationship between human and machine intelligence.

With the rise of artificial intelligence, threats of obsolescence in creative fields have sparked waves of anxiety among artists and designers. In response to this advancing technology, wallcovering company Wolf-Gordon’s chief creative officer Marybeth Shaw has brought creatives has brought together creatives across disciplines to reflect on the relationship between human and machine intelligence through a new collection of conceptual, process based wallpapers.

The collection, titled “Project: HI > AI,” examines original artwork from seven creatives who wrote verbal descriptions of their work and input them into the AI imaging software programs Midjourney and DALL-E. The expectation was to reach something close to the original work; and the artists repeatedly adjusted the language until they arrived at something that had a visual relationship to the original. The process showcases both the limitations and possibilities of current AI technology.

“Trained human hands have made words from these shapes for centuries to communicate, but what would a machine do with something seemingly so simple?”

Jen Mussari, calligrapher and commercial artist

Take, for example, calligrapher and commercial artist Jen Mussari’s Pattern 2. Versed in employing traditional lettering techniques on embroidery and hand-painted signs, she creates bold and graphic work that lives upon various flattened surfaces, tuning in to the potential of two-dimensional surfaces as a space for experimental potential. In Pattern 2, Mussari borrows from the primordial building blocks of written language, creating a pattern made of forms found across various alphabets, with periods and tildes becoming decorative borders. Prompted by the innate humanity of language, Mussari asks: “Trained human hands have made words from these shapes for centuries to communicate, but what would a machine do with something seemingly so simple?” The result is a compelling three-dimensional take on 1970s supergraphics, resembling a virtual paper sculpture. The AI-created pattern begets its digital heritage: Whereas pressure from ink and brush leaves spots more saturated than others on Mussari’s original artwork, Midjourney creates “a linear pattern of calligraphy brushstrokes”—in a language only the software can interpret.

HD Expo display
At this year’s HD Expo 2023, Wolf-Gordon launched “Project: HI > AI,” a concept-driven collection of digitally printed PVC-free wallcoverings designed by seven creatives in collaboration with chief creative officer Marybeth Shaw, design director Michael Loughlin, and AI imaging software Midjourney and DALL-E.

In the case of Christine Tarkowski, a conceptual artist working in textile and glass, the design of her wallpaper Large Square emerges entirely from a process intended to prank the AI software. An intentional trickling of molten glass from an oversize industrial steel ladle onto folded butcher paper casts a diamond-like geometric image, burning away layers of paper to leave behind a record of its destruction. Unfolding into an esoteric visual language with a mathematical pattern to its chaos, the order of the folded paper is dismantled when faced with the alchemical processes involved in glassblowing.

“As an artist, I look to geometry to explore what the literal cannot. The physical traces of geometry are often a superstructure of my making, yet always paired with an entropic action,” says Tarkowski. Her artistic process of transformation and revelation, unknown to the viewer, seems to be further iterated upon through AI, which can only match up with the logical order of folds in her original process. While the various verbal prompts achieve a slight similarity, the result reflects the haphazard disorder associated with AI, pulling from stock images on the internet of fire to create a collage of parchment and flame.

For Christine Tarkowski’s Large Square pattern, the artist and professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago drizzled molten glass onto wet, folded butcher paper. As the glass burned through several layers, a dynamic pattern was revealed once the paper was unfolded.

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