The Digital Prayer project is using one of the computer vision methods for image generating

to create a visual output that resembles an Orthodox Icon. Through pixel generating using Machine Learning techniques and Generative Adversarial Neural Networks, a relation has been established between the canonical structure of an Orthodox Icon and the image artificially generated through a computer program.

A computer program was created and a database of about 4000 digital reproductions of

Orthodox Christian Icons were collected, on the basis of which the computer learns to generate a completely new image. In relation towards the geometric and mathematical order of the visual elements of the Orthodox Icon, through statistical operations, the computer is able to reconstruct the elements of canonical imagery of visual language of the Icon.

After the possibility of technical reproduction, we have reached the point where the image is

not just something that can be reproduced as a digital image file, but to have a machine that can create a completely new image from scratch. Through the process of computation numerous data can be merged into statistical calculation and be translated into the language of the computer code. The output is a digital image created from a collection of information and data.

Orthodox icons have their own strict set of rules – a code which serves the purpose of visualisation of specific narratives, strongly holding their semiotic systems for centuries. With the help of AI, the tendency is to break that canonical code through a different one – a computer code, and to analyse further outcomes in scientific, technical and theoretical ways. There are more similarities between them than it seems at a glance. Both of them are information images which are created through a specific set of rules – codes and instructions. They are codified interfaces, visual transmitters of a message.

The goal of this artistic project is the demystification of the power of the AI. AI is in today’s neoliberalism what God used to be in feudalistic medieval times. Icon has had the same

purpose during medieval times – as a window towards immaterial, projective, spiritual. In the age where we store all the data in a metaphorical place called The Cloud, it is obvious that there is a symbolical resemblance to the religious concept of heaven.

Our needs, answers to our questions, moral codes and influences are nowadays stored in a

different – virtual, rather than a spiritual place. Through direction of algorithmic processes towards imitation of the language of the icon, two visual interfaces oppose each other – virtual world of digital image, and the traditional handmade Orthodox icon.

The image that is seen is just a visualisation of the code and data, which leads us to the analogy proposed by Boris Groys: “The digital image is a visible copy of the invisible image file, of the invisible data. In this respect the digital image is functioning as a Byzantine icon – as a visible copy of invisible God.”