This week I had the pleasure of interviewing @sentientmuppetfactory !
1. Tell me a little about yourself.
“My name’s Beth Frey. I’m a visual artist based between Montreal and Mexico City. Normally my practice is made up of weird watercolours, which I then integrate into weirder videos, face-swapping with my own images so that I can become a bit of a disjointed cartoon character. Like a lot of people, I became addicted to DALL-E this past fall and began sentientmuppetfactory as a way to play around with images without inundating my regular art account with too many AI-generated images.”
2. How did you come up with the name of Sentient Muppet Factory?
“Honestly, I came up with it on the spot without a lot of thought, not realizing it was going to be anything more than a personal side project to share with friends. I’ve been interested in the muppets and puppets as a metaphor for technology after listening to a Laurie Anderson talk, and was inspired by her song The Puppet Motel, which I referenced in a recent art exhibition. I think a lot of people take the name literally, but I’ve never used the word muppet as a prompt in my AI art, and my goal is not to mimic them. I do think, however, that these images exist in that same universe of the wacky variety shows from the 1970s and 80s. Now that the account has become much larger than anticipated, I’m considering changing its name, as I don’t want to run into trouble with the Disney corporation.”
3. Who are 3 pop culture icons that inspired your art and why?
“As far as the sentientmuppetfactory project is concerned (the influences for my primary art practice would be a different list), I pull a lot from old films, both popular and foreign auteur cinema. I think in that regard, John Waters is an influence. His campy characters are sort of hyperreal, and I am a fan of low-budget aesthetics in make-up and props. It should be no surprise that the Muppet Show is an influence, even if I’m not directly referencing it. This was probably the only television show we were allowed to watch as kids and I’ve always been sort of fascinated by how the puppets interact with the glamorous stars of its era. Another favourite of mine is Isabella Rossellini’s web series Green Porno, where she dresses up in homemade costumes to demonstrate the reproductive tendencies of various animals. The videos are funny and shocking and educational, and I appreciate how Rossellini doesn’t take herself too seriously and crosses over into the absurd.”
4. What was the first art piece you remember creating? What was it?
“My mom got this kit where we could draw on a sheet of paper and then turn it into a melamine plate. I think I remember it because that’s one of the only drawings that I still have access to. I was about five years old and I drew myself with enormous eyes and nose that didn’t fit on my face, and a head that was apparently rolling off my shoulders (I didn’t yet understand the concept of a neck). “
5. Do you have any exciting news or events that you would like to share?
“Right now everything is pretty exciting! The sentientmuppetfactory project is still brand new and it’s only recently exploded so I’m just taking it all in. One thing I appreciate about this experience is that it’s connected me to a lot of artists: filmmakers and puppeteers and make-up artists, among others, and I’m exploring ways to turn these images into something “real”, with actual people moving and interacting. I’d like to use AI in a way that is not the “death of art” but rather a way to connect artists and collaborate on something beautiful and fun.
Apart from that, I’ve got art shows and residencies coming up in the next year for my “main” practice. I’m working on an evolving video installation that will be in Stewart Hall Gallery in Montreal in May and June 2023 and it’s been a fun process putting all the parts together for that.”
If you would like more information. The following contact info is below: