Filmmaker Bennett Miller’s A.I.-Enhanced Sepia Visions Go on View at Gagosian Beverly Hills

The director's first California show features his latest experiments with text-to-image generator DALL-E.

Bennett Miller, Untitled (2023). Courtesy of Gagosian.

Going on view at Gagosian in Beverly Hills is a series of sepia prints by filmmaker Bennett Miller, depicting enigmatic and downright eerie scenes. They recall the portraiture and documentary feel of early photography, right down to their grainy surfaces. The catch? None of them are real. 

The show brings together Miller’s latest experiments with artificial intelligence. Specifically, he has used the text-to-image generator DALL-E to produce images that mimic the look and feel of 19th- and 20th-century photographs, imbued with an air of disquiet and uncanniness. With them, Miller hopes to demonstrate A.I.’s increasing ability to deep-fake reality, skew history, and ultimately, reshape perceptions. 

Bennett Miller, Untitled (2023). Courtesy of Gagosian.

Bennett Miller, Untitled (2023). Courtesy of Gagosian.

It’s an exploration the director embarked on with his first body of images, which was showcased at Gagosian New York last year. His new series remains just as resonant as A.I. gains in capabilities and popularity, with machine-imagined art increasingly closing the gap between what’s real and what’s generated. 

“The emergence of A.I.,” Miller told Artnet News at the launch of his first show, “has brought us to the precipice of imagination-defying transformations and there do not seem to be any adults in the room.”  

Bennett Miller, Untitled (2023). Courtesy of Gagosian.

Bennett Miller, Untitled (2023). Courtesy of Gagosian.

The director is well-placed to interrogate the meeting of reality and artificiality. His previous films such as Capote (2005) and Foxcatcher (2014) have adapted real-life events for the cinema; he is also currently developing a documentary on this “extraordinary moment” when A.I. is impacting our perceptions (Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, is set to be featured). 

His latest images offer a view of a shaky reality. In one, an enormous whale appears to have landed on a theatrical stage; in another, an unconscious woman is bundled up in a snow-white bed, her silhouette deeply out-of-focus. The aesthetic is recognizable, but the scenarios are illusory—an ambiguity meant to jar the viewer into what Miller termed “real awareness and consideration.” 

Bennett Miller, Untitled (2023). Courtesy of Gagosian.

Bennett Miller, Untitled (2023). Courtesy of Gagosian.

In its media release, Gagosian likened Miller’s latest works to spiritualist photographs, in particular “Cottingley Fairies,” a series of otherworldly snapshots staged by two young girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, in 1917. But where the pair sought to make real the mythical being of the fairy, Miller’s ongoing ventures into A.I. accomplish the opposite in their pursuit of the unreal. His fairies remain fairies.  

“Bennett Miller” is on view at Gagosian, 456 N Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, January 11 through February 10. 


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