Jess MacCormack / ‘dissociative_dreams’ uses AI tools to create seamless neo-surreal collages that distort, fragment and transform the human form. Interested in how trauma shapes identity and society, their work highlights the ways dissociation is reproduced through digital mediation. Jess experiments with pop culture, humour and the abject to highlight moments of illumination within disconnection.
As a queer interdisciplinary artist, MacCormack references everything from selfies to the Simpsons to make commentary on the ways in which technology and cultural forces can shape and mediate the world around us.
I’m very interested in exploring how AI intersects with trauma, dissociation and queer identities. For example, the way a program like Dall-e 2 allows one to use AI to expand an image indefinitely, while it creates connections between text prompts and existing images.
Generating AI images through natural text prompts and image extension mechanisms creates complex uncanny, neo-surreal images that can shift artistic styles seamlessly. As AI tools train on millions of images, there are endless, unpredictable possibilities of aesthetics and content. This allows for a queering of the imagery where bodies easily morph one into another, or into animals or objects – undoing normative representations of gender, kinship and embodiment with ease; and simultaneously illustrating the dissociated affect inherent in both mediated relations and traumatised individuals.
Nonetheless, there are limitations to what this technology can produce as historical biases often related to race and gender are embedded in AI learning, and specific content is blocked by filters due to the companies’ ethics policies, including things like violence, disease, and, sexuality. Trying to work around these limitations and find new ways to express these subjects is similar to the emergence of repressed trauma, or to queer culture for that matter; despite barrier mechanisms, these buried themes find subversive ways to express themselves.
Jess MacCormack is a queer, mad artist, and white settler working on the unceded ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and sə̓lílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
Their art practice engages with the intersection of institutional violence and the socio-political reality of personal trauma. Working with communities and individuals affected by stigma and oppression, they use cultural platforms and distribution networks to facilitate collaborations which position art as a tool to engender personal and political agency.
MacCormack’s digital work has been shared through various online platforms, such as VICE’s The Creators Project, PAPER Mag, and Art F City. Their animations have been screened internationally at festivals such as the Ottawa International Animation Festival, MIX-26 the New York Queer Experimental Film Festival, Transcreen Amsterdam Transgender Film Festival, LA Film Fest at UCLA, Inside Out, Imaginative Film Festival. and International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA).
They have an MFA in Public Art and New Artistic Strategies from the Bauhaus University (2008) and were an Assistant Professor of Studio Arts at Concordia University (2010-2013). MacCormack is currently an instructor at Emily Carr University of Art + Design.