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berlinerförderp rogramm künstle rischeforschung


Holly Herndon

Holly Herndon: Metamorphosis 

I am undertaking a research project to alter how AI sees me. One of the great promises of the  early internet was self determination of identity. We are able to craft new personae for  ourselves, assuming identities and forms digitally that abstract from our physical selves. In the  AI world, however, we currently have no such powers of expression. If somebody prompts my  name, they will receive an image that looks like images taken of me with and without  permission. I hope that this project demonstrates that interventions into self determination may  be possible on this new internet. 



In 2021 I created the project “Classified”, an exploration into the “Holly Herndon” classification  embedded in OpenAI’s CLIP model. CLIP is a model trained on image/text pairs, and is able to  translate written prompts to feed into an image model such as DALL-E or Stable Diffusion.  Only some people meet the threshold of information about them online required to have a CLIP  embedding, and mine is mostly constructed from promotional images of myself and traces of  artworks tagged with my name.  

This portraiture project determined that my embedding is mostly determined by my distinctive  ginger haircut, blue eyes, and a vague photographic tone of futurism.  

Embedding transformation 

In order to undergo a transformation in how AI sees me, and alter my embedding, I would need  to produce a large amount of media depicting me with new character traits. I am currently  creating a large amount of new training data to attempt to manipulate the perception of me,  and strategizing to place this media on websites that are considered reputable enough to  influence the AI training process.  


Kudurru is a web scraping defense network created by our organization Spawning. It allows for  participating artists and institutions to alert each other of web scrapers targeting sites in order  to shut them down. It also contains the potential to poison models by link injecting unexpected  imagery for AI scrapers to ingest. So an AI scraper may be expecting an image of “Holly  Herndon” taken in 2015, however through collaboration with participating sites we are able to  serve the scraper a new image. If we can successfully serve this new imagery to enough web  scrapers, I may succeed in transforming my image in AI models. 

This kind of deception targeted at web scrapers to manipulate “truth” has already been  demonstrated by the Spawning team, as evidenced by the results displayed when you ask  ChatGPT what is (image). 


In the next year I hope to have crafted a compelling new identity for myself, and deployed it  strategically to undergo this metamorphosis. I will document the construction of a new identity  and my attempts to undergo this transformation.


Holly Herndon is an artist renowned for her pioneering work in machine learning, software and music. She develops her own technology, and protocols for living with the technology of others, often with a focus on the ownership and augmentation of digital identity and voice. These technical systems not only facilitate expansive artworks across media, but are proposed as artworks unto themselves. She co-runs an art studio in Berlin with her partner Mathew Dryhurst.

They were awarded the 2022 Ars Electronica STARTS prize for digital art for the Holly+ project. She has been on ArtReview’s Power 100 list since 2021 and holds a PhD in Computer Music from Stanford. They publish their studio research openly through the Interdependence podcast, and recently co-founded Spawning, an organization building a consent layer for AI. Their critically acclaimed musical works are released through 4AD.


Holly Herndon ist eine Künstlerin, die für ihre Pionierarbeit in den Bereichen maschinelles Lernen, Software und Musik bekannt ist. Sie entwickelt ihre eigene Technologie und Protokolle für das Leben mit der Technologie anderer, oft mit dem Schwerpunkt auf dem Besitz und der Erweiterung der digitalen Identität und Stimme. Diese technischen Systeme ermöglichen nicht nur ausgedehnte medienübergreifende Kunstwerke, sondern werden auch als Kunstwerke an sich vorgeschlagen. Gemeinsam mit ihrem Partner Mathew Dryhurst betreibt sie ein Kunststudio in Berlin.

Für das Projekt Holly+ wurde ihnen 2022 der Ars Electronica STARTS Preis für digitale Kunst verliehen. Sie steht seit 2021 auf der Power 100 Liste von ArtReview und hat einen Doktortitel in Computermusik von Stanford. Sie veröffentlichen ihre Studioforschung über den Interdependence-Podcast und haben kürzlich Spawning mitbegründet, eine Organisation, die eine Einwilligungsebene für KI aufbaut. Ihre von der Kritik gefeierten musikalischen Werke werden über 4AD veröffentlicht.