There are over one billion Instagram users worldwide. Since May 2020, Rachael Lery (@rachaellic) – like many of us – has been posting on the platform every day. The experience of scrolling through her design account is pleasing: pastel and terrazzo cubes stack, interlock and tessellate. Leaves appear from CGI tubes and spheres. The compositions are relaxing, satisfying; each one is a self-contained digital world. Yet there’s one major difference between Rachael and other artists on IG: she is not a real person. Instead, she has been designed by Matthias Winckelmann as “the world’s first fully automated autonomous 3D design influencer on Instagram.” @rachaellic will continue posting without any human intervention, as long as the computer on which she is running is online.
Winckelmann’s real-time software – built with Unreal Engine 4 – can generate and share an infinite number of artworks, each with a unique combination of shapes and colours. #RachaelIsNotReal demonstrates the capabilities of real-time rendering, automation and AI. The account is coded to create “likeable” images – tapping into the platform’s most popular visual languages. In doing so, Winckelmann intends to critically examine image consumption in today’s fast-paced social media landscape. “Due to the continuously growing speed of how images are consumed on Instagram, the more successful (liked) images are the ones displaying an immediate, visually pleasing impression,” the artist explains. “She (Rachael) has gained a decent following without any additional effort on my behalf. By posting similar, easily consumable creative assets daily she is building her following on a regular stable growth rate.”
At the centre of this discussion is the question: what constitutes creative value? “When I created Rachael, my core interest revolved around re-evaluating and analysing cultural value in the digital art space,” Winckelmann notes. “I intended to question if something is valuable because it received a lot of likes; if a large following defines a great artist; and if the algorithms of social media influence the way we express ourselves creatively as humans.” In the past few months, we’ve seen NFTs shake up the art market; adding new layers of meaning and a bringing a host of fresh questions to #RachelIsNotReal. “With the incredible advancements in machine learning and AI, it is only a question of time until the creation of visually pleasing images can be fully automated. If we neglect the communication aspect of visuals and simply use design techniques to attract likes, we as human creatives risk becoming obsolete in the near future.”
All images courtesy Designer & Director Matthias Winckelmann.