‘Abyss’ creator Jeppe Lange discusses his hypnotic short film made of 10,000 images linked by artificial intelligence

In a unique film the showed at Copenhagen Film Festival, ‘Abyss’ bombards the senses with thousands of images flashing before your eyes and morphing into one another, stitched together by Google’s AI.

The creator of this is Danish visual artist Jeppe Lange, who used Google’s image search engine to source images that resemble one another as closely as possible, choosing them based on pattern, colour and formation with no sense of scale, emotion or context.

Friday sees Jeppe’s film premiere at Vision Du Reel and Nordic Watchlist got speak to the director about what inspired him to create this 13 minute film.

The brains behind ‘Abyss’ Jeppe Lange

We are truly fascinated to know how this idea came about for you and how you planned to bring it to life?

Since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated by machines and mathematical theories. After reading a couple of books on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in 2019 I decided to make a sci-fi documentary of how the world had turned into one single organism that used data from security cameras, microphones and other devices to connect into an almost divine consciousness.

In my visual research I stumbled upon this method that in a very simple manner illustrates the associations of a contemporary AI – and thereby also offers a glimpse into this awakening consciousness. I fell in love with the results. It was both complicated and utterly simple. It depicted both the AI and humanity. I like when simple methods can generate imagery that is both surprising and conceptually interesting.

Talk to us about the images and how they appear, is this all edited or processed a certain way?

I’m not a programmer so I had to assemble the film in a very tedious and repetitive way. I uploaded a photo to Google’s Image Search, used a plugin for my browser to download all images and best possible resolution, deleted all the useless images, sorted them in 2-4 categories (to make the film more fluent), found an image that depicted an incorrect motif (where the AI had misunderstood the image) and uploaded it to Google’s Image Search. 

And I repeated that 8-10 hours a day. After two months I was about to give up. I felt like I was wasting my life. But I also started to become a bit obsessed. After four months my own perception changed. I started to see the world as an AI: Without scale, without feelings, without the sense of touch. I knew I had to stop but I had got the idea that the film would not be finished before it contained all the images of the internet. 

On your first viewing what was your take from it and what do you want audiences to take away from the experience?

I had a lot of friends and family for the premiere and many of them are not used to watching unconventional films and video art. But everybody seemed to have had an experience, though very different. My childhood friend talked a lot about the colours, another friend talked about the transitions. A third friend talked about the future of AI. My dad just said that he was very proud of me. Even though the footage is quite intense, I think the simple method offers a lot of space to the individual spectator.

As a filmmaker you should never have a clear agenda of what the audience should experience. So I can only talk about my own experience. Watching Abyss gives me a sense of seeing with my eyes and my eyes only. The tempo of the imagery is so intense that the brain cannot keep up with the eyes. It’s the same feeling I can get when I meditate. To be free of the thinking mind and just perceiving the world as it is: Patterns and colours.

Will the short become available for the public to watch in the future and what is coming up next for you? 

I made the film without a production company. It has just been me and composer Simon Brinck. But I am talking to a distributing company and I really hope to get it out as far as possible. Preferably in cinemas.

I have just finished a similar film about impressionist paintings and how you need to forget the motifs when you’re painting. It is showing at Jumiéges Abbaye I Normandy and will maybe be at next year’s CPH:DOX.

I am also writing a novel on photography and the impossibility of depicting the world (and the impossibility of true love)!

Watch a preview of Abyss below:

Vision Du Reel festival starts on Friday – find out more information on the festival HERE

Interview by Alex Minnis

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