v3.1 / Ben Nixon’s Pareidolia

We are meaning makers. We can’t help it. It’s second nature. The Virgin Mary appears in our espresso foam, Edgar Allen Poe in the woodgrain, a butterfly in the inkblot. No matter how abstract the noise, music slips in. No matter how unintelligible the words, poetry abides.

i went to the store to buy some groceries.
i store to buy some groceries.
i were to buy any groceries.
horses are to buy any groceries.
horses are to buy any animal.
horses the favorite any animal.
horses the favorite favorite animal.
horses are my favorite animal.

This is Google’s AI. After scanning thousands of books, it sketched out this tipsy equestrian ode, like a distracted doodle on the back of a napkin. The movement from buying groceries to horses, apparently the AI’s favorite animal, is not its own movement, of course. It’s my movement—my own intelligence connecting things where no connections exist.

The word for this strange little tendency of ours is pareidolia, and it’s the magic that happens with Ben Nixon’s impressionistic series, “Oriental Seagull.” In every random splash or glint or crease, exotic menageries appear, or appear to appear. Every image begins with nature’s own eccentric intelligence and leaves us with her favorite animals.

For this feature, we paired Nixon’s extraordinary photograms with poems from the Poetry Generator, an algorithm that reportedly passed some aspects of the Turing Test. We’re not sure at all what will happen—which seems appropriate, given the unpredictability of these beautiful images.


Odes from A.I. to the Photographs of Ben Nixon

Three Stars
Three Stars © Ben Nixon

Sometimes a piece of the electricity
conquers like a tryst in my shoulder
lighted and then showered in the night
Everything dilute with fluidic voices, the salt of the reflection
and piles of lovely bread in twilight
a curves and a brow
kissing the area!
the dry ness of the quilt, the power of the earth
This wounded bottle and swimming light abolishes me,
with it’s fresh doves like brain and leg!
And turqoise leaves like arm and rituals
of your ultraviolet tryst when you hold out your mouth,
went excited in prize
there are no felicities but rigid cycles of energy and sepia,
stalks of cattail of poetic dry iron.

Space Anatomy
Space Anatomy © Ben Nixon

This molested essence and pacifying eddy coagulates me
with it’s musical drops like finger and shoulder
and turqoise alcoves like toe and corals
the insatiable propellers that imbues in your hat,
inside the bitten springtime, many shifty traps!
You enrich headlong into a region to relax your business?
Everything melancholy with nocturnal voices, the salt of the soul.
And piles of velvety bread with morning
you see eyelids as loving as the fog.
To seek another land.

Remnants © Ben Nixon

Enjoy the many phosphorus attempts to perservere
that life in its paper-mache boxes is as endless as the silence
the nauesous ness of the ship, the power of the earth?
The order of the shades of silvery.

Homage to Wynn
Homage to Wynn © Ben Nixon

The sunset threads you in its mortal mud
A dashing mist of roots,
In your arm of anger the region of apples perform.

A Matter of Herbert
A Matter of Herbert © Ben Nixon

Be guided by the smooth cactus’s fountain
rustling from insatiable emerald
In your feet of sorrow
the heights of bird feathers tread.

I stayed enchanted and sepia
under the area
towards those green lakes of yours that wait for me.

Work from the Oriental Seagull series will be on show this January and February at the Southeast Center for Photography in Greenville, SC. For more news, check out bennixonphotography.com. And be sure to follow Ben Nixon on Instagram!