Bernardo Martins On Their Art, Motivations, Horror, Immigrating and More

by Rubén Palma
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Bernardo Martins, is a 27-year-old Brazilian AI artist, whose creative journey has led him to the vibrant and eclectic city of Berlin. With a passion for the macabre and a penchant for all things horror and gore, Bernardo’s work transcends the boundaries of conventional artistry. A graduate in design, he brings a unique blend of skills to his craft, having honed his talents through experiences as a graphic designer and photographer, including stints at prestigious publications like Interview Magazine and Vice Germany. Now based in the heart of Berlin’s thriving art scene, this artist continues to push the boundaries of art and technology, using AI as a powerful tool to explore the depths of creativity and the darker corners of the human imagination.

Hi Bernardo! It’s a pleasure to sit down with you. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your background, what are your hobbies, and what does a regular day look like for you. 

Hey, thank you for having me! I’m a 27-year Brazillian AI artist and I’ve been based in Berlin for the past 4 years. I’m a design graduate and used to work as a graphic designer and photographer right when I arrived in Germany at both Interview Magazine and Vice Germany. Since then I have gone on a long journey of creative research while trying to find my voice within all different crafts like video and image making.

My hobbies are mostly related to exploring imagery from the past, I have a collection of magazines like Dazed, I-d, and The Face from between 96 and 2016 which I hold very close to my heart. That also relates to searching for movies that bring me back to the beginning of the digital era. I’m currently working on the idea of a fabricated past or an absurd fake memory, so going through all this material is always exciting. 

I just came back from a 6 months experience in Paris so I’m rediscovering Berlin, but so far a regular day has been very stimulating, there’s a lot of exciting art going on in the city and I’ve missed it so much.

So what brought you to Berlin?

2018 was a very turbulent and polarizing year in Brazil. The elections had just made Bolsonaro the most right-wing and intolerant candidate possible. When he won, the feeling of grief and powerlessness spread across my inner circle and others who felt similarly about him. 

Since I was graduating and had just been fired for outspokenly being against Bolsonaro’s principles, I thought it was the perfect moment to experience something besides Sao Pulo, which had for a long time been a dream of mine. But in the given scenario, I managed to relink with friends I had made in Lisbon who were also moving to Berlin at the time for the nihilist energy that moved the club and music scene in the city. 

The same thing goes for Paris. I’m curious, what did you do there for 6 months?

Germany can be very challenging at times. Not only the big cultural gap between here and Brazil, with the years going by and gentrification having a bigger impact in the city, I felt that there was a big unbalance between work and remuneration as someone who isn’t from here. Moving to Paris for the summer was a big breath I needed to take to be able to face the Berlin winter head-on. 

My time there was really special, I was able to live in Montmartre and work with a few people there, especially during fashion week. I hope to maintain those relationships and eventually go back for a little longer.  (A really peak moment in Paris was the Kelela concert right when I arrived, witnessing her album Raven, live at a beautiful theater was everything I didn’t know I had always needed.) 

So when did you first start to play around with AI programs? And what do you use now?

I first started to explore with Dall E last year when I found out about Dev Moore’s AI photographs exploring artificial intelligence-generated communities from the past with a touch of Fruits Magazine, which I appreciate so much. 

From then I started exploring Stable diffusion, Facet AI, and Midjourney, where I ended up getting the most control out of them all. Today I combine that with Photoshop and Runway ML, which can expand the possibility of images. 

Your work is, as you mention, is indescribable AI. With that in mind. What are your thoughts on the recent popularity and rise of various AI tools, like: ChatGPT, Perplexity AI, Google Bard AI etc…?

I appreciate the rise of public AI because, to me, AI is just another technological improvement tool that amplifies possibilities and ultimately it will come down to us to use it ethically. Being chronically online, I get mostly excited by absurd content and the unpretentious use of technology, like the Facebook group Cursed AI, which explores mostly sarcasm and a disturbance that so far only humans can distinguish. 

So where do you see AI in 10 years?

From my point of view, AI in 10 years will make us appreciate human craft on another level. I’m also hoping AI will be the tool that will allow us to be much more imaginative. I’m quite sure we will be able to create new sounds and new rhythms for music, storytelling, and immersive experiences. 

Creativity is ultimately based on experience and knowledge, so I’m counting that 10 years from now we’re able to live things we can’t even conceptualize today, genuinely different from the references we have available to us thus far. 

Can you walk me through your creative process. From beginning, to end result?

My process always starts with my earliest AI work. I’ve been training the machine with media I generated when I first started, and then I’m gathering images I’ve come across online that for some reason caught my attention. It could be a fish from the deep sea I found on Twitter, a movie I discovered that week, or a book someone recommended. Then I blend it all multiple times until there’s something that moves me, and save it regardless if I’m moving on with it or not. Most of the time I’m getting an image I will eventually use as a source for something greater in the future, so my drafts are just as valuable as my final image. I never had that with photography before, so I have much more ease today because I allow myself to make mistakes and come up with images I maybe will never share with anyone else. Eventually, I will revisit all of my discarded media and recycle that into something else that might make a bit more sense with my overall research. 

What is it about gore and horror that resonates with you?

Dealing with ADHD I have a hard time channeling focus, so thriller and horror always manage to grab my attention through unsettling feelings. 

I don’t see my art as horrific or gory, but I can see why it challenges some people’s notions of beauty and artistry. I resonate with other artists who manage to have my senses amazed, so experiences like Shozin Fukui’s “Pinocchio 964”, Chris Cunningham’s “Rubber Jhonny” or “Panico no Submundo” by DJ K are a great source of inspiration to me. 

What motivates you?

I create images because I’m obsessed with it. I have a complex relationship with my feelings so expressing myself visually is the escape I’ve resourced to the most. I’m glad I’m able to discuss without getting lost in translation. After leaving Brazil, I wasn’t expecting how precarious working as a photographer in Berlin could be. Besides being deprived of the gear I needed to achieve the images I wanted to create, collaboratively working with others always ended up going through people’s perceptions of what’s valuable or not and therefore validations or comparisons I wasn’t necessarily willing to go through. Working with AI allowed me to depend on myself to get the outcome I wanted and be able to experiment at all times. I spend most of my days researching and generating images and this is the fuel I need since I’m constantly in touch with the expansion of my research. 

How would you describe a perfect day?

I think the perfect day comes with something unexpected: maybe a good e-mail, a good line-up, or a good friend you bumped on the street. 

I have turned my previous habit of counting on the worst to avoid getting frustrated into celebrating the unforeseen joys. 

Any future projects coming up?

I have a collaborative T-shirt drop with Transmoderna, I can’t wait to see it out in the world! 

Alright Bernardo. I always ask these two questions at the end of an interview. The first is. What’s your favorite movie(s) and why?

That’s a tough question, I could probably name a few…

But at the top of my mind, Park Chan-wook’s “Sympathy for Mr Vengeance” is one that I rewatched a few times. From the casting to the plot, everything is breathtaking. 

The second is. What song(s) are you currently listening to the most right now?

Ever since I came back to Berlin I’ve been on a loop of “Selected Ambient Works 85-92” from Aphex Twin to be able to resettle. Tracks like “Tha” and “Ageispolis” are really grounding and allow me to focus. Vayda’s “gummy vaymix” and LEECH’s “coochie coo” are my go-to whenever I’m just hanging out. 

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