Interview with Fabin Rasheed, a Multi-talented Digital Creative

Fabin Rasheed is an India based Artist, Designer, Innovator and Technologist working in the intersection of Creativity and Technology. He has previously worked with companies like Xerox Research and Adobe as an innovator, where he had invented new expressions of creativity and had filed multiple patents and publications in art and creativity. He holds a Master's Degree in Design from the Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad.

Above: still from Chromology by Fabin Rasheed 

Fabin’s works revolve around using technology to make art and creating tools to extend their potential for creativity. Furthermore, his work spans a wide variety of technology like Artificial Intelligence, AR/VR, Gestures, Voice, Generative arts and more.

We discovered Fabin Rasheed’s work in the framework of the collaboration between Ars Electronica and .art Domains. In the days before the launch of Ars Electronica .ART Global Gallery, we looked into his portfolio and the work he is presenting. We were amazed by Fabin’s use of digital tools to the service of art. We weren’t alone in our contemplation. When he shared online, his participation in the Global Gallery, the video of his works went viral!

The festival was the perfect occasion to interview Fabin – the .art Domains have talked with him about his journey through experimentation and what it means to be a digital creative these days.

Tell us about your path – how did you move from working with Xerox Research and Adobe to devoting your time to be a creative? 

For the last 10 years, I have worked in various areas of Human Computer Interaction. I have made gesture-based interfaces for hospitals, Virtual Reality solutions for rural schools, AI based creative solutions for different segments of populations, etc. I think a part of me, as a person, was molded by these institutions, but beyond that they brought me into the area of innovation, design and research. Xerox had inspired me to innovate and Adobe had shown me the way to create for creatives. Also, if I may, a little-known fact about me is that I have designed for Adobe Photoshop, the year before it won the Oscar Award. So, it was an automatic feedback mechanism – that you are part of something big – when you work for these companies which touch so many lives. Much of my works, patents and publications hitherto have been in the area of creativity. Bringing all these together has helped me bring a fresh perspective into my art works, and sometimes I call it “creation for creation”.  

How did you become interested in technology and its potential as a creative tool? 

Perhaps it was in 4th standard (Grade 4) of my school that our family got our first computer. It was an Intel Pentium machine, and the very first thing I tried was open up a graphic painting application and draw in it. This was a revelation to a child of that age. I used to sketch before that, but the array of tools and offerings that application gave started making me think of the amazing possibilities of a computer. Technology introduces a variety of possibilities, and with that we could create amazing tools. Give the right tools to any person, and they could make something unique, interesting and amazing out of it. This possibility of letting people create with technology was something which really appealed to me. 

 How do you feel your work with AI, Interaction Design, AR/VR & 3D informed your artistic practice? 

I wake up every day and look at my feed on social channels. I see inspiring work in different technologies by different folks out there. I get inspired and start experimenting on something. I usually do not have an end or a goal in mind, but just keep swimming the unknown waters until I find something good. Now this could be using any of the above technology, and I really do not want to stick to one, but build bridges. My artworks I feel start from here, and I always tried to ask more questions through them than answer or make statements. And when I do make the art, I look at 3 things: the concept, the process and the aesthetic. I like to see which part of it I can push more than the other and hence discover something new. To summarise, I think more than a specific technology, the diverse play of technology and creativity is my zen. 

Can you talk to us about your AI brushes series that you presented for Ars Electronica? What is the idea behind it? How did you come up with it? 

I took a break from my corporate job as an experience designer in early 2019 to invest time in art, family and health. I think this was an important time in my life. This is also when I started working with Artificial Intelligence and creativity. I posted my first project on an AI creative bot. I started working on creating tools for creating art using machine learning. Thus, the AI Brushes project was born. In the project, I tried different machine learning techniques to create digital brushes. I also explored creating art, which was different from typical art forms. One of the main works, which is exhibited at Art Electronica, is Novamrem. It is a work which identifies with the transition of art from the traditional age to the digital age. In the so-called new Renaissance, the traditional world is not rejected, but accepted, enhanced and augmented. Novamrem shows how traditional modes of painting are translated to a digital alter-ego using Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence. It is also a play on the concept of “Reality”. On the one side we see traditional modes of painting without any realism, painting just patches and on the other side we see the realistic alter-ego but in augmented reality. I didn’t create it as a “tool” but as something which raises important questions on the transition of art from past to present and the influence of technology in creativity. It became popular in social media, but more importantly created many conversations and debates around creativity and technology. 

You created a Digital Twin, the new tool from the .art Domains for online certification of artworks using the DNS system – what are your thoughts on it? How do you think this contributes to creating value for digital artworks? How do you think we can use this tool? 

The digital twin stores the digital avatar of a physical work. This could be anything from a painting, to a sculpture, architecture, an installation or even a digital-only artwork. It essentially helps encapsulate the content digitally. What struck me most was the unique .art domain names that came with the digital twin. Any day, I could refer folks to my artwork using the domain name. What more is that there is a guarantee of authenticity and longevity. In case of perishable physical artefacts, this proves really valuable. For my own work Novamrem, I use the digital twin novamrem.art as a one-point reference to my work. I can share it with anyone and it not only contains the video, but also the details, description, timestamp and more. Since there is blockchain integration available, the possibility of trading and getting tangible returns for creatives is also possible with Digital Twins and that I feel is really valuable to an artist in this era. 

Fabin’s digital twin can be seen here: https://novamrem.art/

How do you see the practice/software tools developing in the next 5 years? Anything you are hoping for or would like to see come to life? 

I think with the advent of Artificial Intelligence, creative possibilities have increased exponentially. There is a barrier of entry for creatives right now because of the need to learn programming etc. I see many tools like RunwayML and others which are continually trying to bridge this gap. As I see it, creativity is the constant and technology is the variable. When more new technological innovations come in, creatives should be flexible enough to learn and use these new tools creatively. In parallel, tool creators should make sure these futuristic tools are accessible, inclusive and user-friendly. Anything 3D is going to be huge in the coming years. AR/VR will become commonplace and everyone would be looking for easier 3D modelling/creation tools. Non-voxel based 3D is another area of interest of mine which I see a lot of potential in the future. I would also like to mention tools for senses other than sight and sound. For example, there could be tools to design the kind of smell that you perceive while viewing a virtual flower. One last area I would like to mention is brain computer interfaces and dream research. Dreams could be the ultimate virtual reality. And designing for dreams is something that is being explored already and is an exciting area to keep an eye out on.  

What do you hope to see for the digital art world in the coming years? 

I think one of the key changes that digital art is seeing right now is that there are increasing venues which provide tangible values to such works. Till date we have seen digital artworks sold as stock art, prints etc. This changes with the introduction of solutions and programs like Digital Twins, NFTs and more. Digital works are now being valued for their artistic value rather than only their utilitarian value. Besides this, I see a lot of opportunity for a more diverse set of audience to create. The more accessible technology and knowledge gets, the more creative expressions that come out. To cite my own example, it is interesting how a person like me from a developing country got access to such technology, knowledge and learning, and created such creations. And as I mentioned, creativity is the constant, technology is the variable. There would be many technological innovations that would come up in the digital arts, but how one creatively uses them matters the most. 

What piece of advice would you want to give to the new generation of digital artists? 

Be open, flexible and accepting. Empathize, ask meaningful questions, keep moving and more importantly live life. 

You can visit Ars Electronica .ART Global Gallery till September 30th.  

You can also take a deeper look into Fabin’s work here  

Evlyne Laurin
Evlyne Laurin
has over a decade of experience in various positions within the cultural sector, she understands the power of arts and how to leverage it. It is her mission to make it more accessible. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.