How Artist Niceaunties Uses AI to Create Sublimely Surreal Visions

Weird windows into hearts, minds and souls

Welcome to the Auntieverse.

Aunties—as older women in Asian culture are known—are celebrated in the most joyful and surreal ways by Niceaunties. That's the the nom de plume of a Singaporean artist who uses AI and digital media to create eye-catching videos and still images of elders.

Relaxing in a giant, steaming bowl of soup like it's a hot tub. Strutting down a fashion runway with all the gear they need to do their daily chores. Floating on sushi rolls in a pool at the Museum of Modern Aunties.

Aunties can do all that and more, thanks to niceaunties. The artist has worked as a designer in the architectural field for the past 20 years, launching into AI in 2023.

Her imaginative output quickly gained a following on Instagram and YouTube. It was recently exhibited at ZONAMACO, the largest art fair in Latin America. Her first solo show in Germany drops in April during Gallery Weekend Berlin.

Here, the artist discusses the challenges of AI and the reactions she gets to her work.

Where did the idea for niceaunties come from?

Initially, my goal was to use AI to depict events and social phenomena that are difficult to capture, especially the memories of my family members and the charming yet peculiar behaviors of people in my culture. The "auntie culture," widespread in Asian communities, became a natural subject for exploration. However, I aimed to offer a positive and uplifting view on the notion of being labeled an auntie, which often carries negative connotations.

Are there any women in particular who inspire your creations?

Yes! My late grandmother, very socially active mother and my aunties. They are pivotal characters in my childhood, since women are the main caretakers. The quirky things they say, their delicious foods, their fears, dreams and self-constraints, their social interactions inspired my work.


A post shared by Niceaunties (@niceaunties)

How do you create a piece of niceaunties art?

Firstly, I conceptualize the main idea or emotion I wish to project. I then use text-to-image AI programs to explore the concept. This process might inspire more ideas. The images are then upscaled and processed in animation software. Those sequences are then edited into a video. The music is created through AI software; voiceover with an AI tool. 

Tell me more about the specific AI tools you use.

I use Midjourney and DALL·E 3 for text to image creation, and Topaz Labs for upscaling the images, Pikalabs and Runwayml for animation.

How long does it take to create a niceaunties original?

Anywhere from half a day to one month.

Aside from aunties, there are lots of cats in your work. Do you have a cat?

I do not have a cat, though I envy people who do. They seem utterly delightful and lovable. I create imaginary cat companions in my AI art as a dream for the future.

How would you like to see AI change or improve?

AI programs often have filters that limit the capacity of creation. Even if the intention is completely innocent, the prompt might be banned for unclear reasons. When I first started exploring AI, the programs did not adhere to the prompts exactly, which was frustrating. This has since improved tremendously. The future? Perhaps a direct connection from the brain to an AI device?

I discovered your work on Instagram. Why do you enjoy sharing your art via social media?

Sharing my art online, especially on Instagram, is like having a public diary filled with work-in-progress creations. I would say it is a practice in vulnerability and courage. What I enjoy is community engagement and mutual support with other artists. 

And what kind of reactions do you get to the work you post online?

The typical reactions broken down into ratios: 60 percent love it, 20 percent ask about mushrooms and substances, 20 percent are against the use of AI.


A post shared by Niceaunties (@niceaunties)

Is there a particular museum or gallery you wish would show your work?

It would be a dream to exhibit my work in MoMA. 

Who are your favorite artists?

David Bowie, Picasso, Salvador Dali.

How do you stay inspired to create?

I meditate, watch movies, have conversations with people.  

Do you ever get into a rut where you feel like you don't have any ideas; how do you break out of that?

Very rarely! If I do, I will break out of the typical activities and do something new or travel. A change in scenery always helps.

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