This experimental project was carried out as part of beta testing of MidJourney, an AI bot that creates images. The process is as follows: MidJourney or MJ bot is not given exact commands, but a prompt that starts with the word “/imagine”. The prompt can be consist of images, words, it could also include special syntax commands. Although the bot acts more as a tool than as a co-author, it has a lot of independent creativity, which can resemble non-neurotypical decisions. It is like you are driving a car that does not have a steering wheel, only the speed and brake pedals; the direction of travel has to be explained in words, which the car could interpret freely if it wishes.
However MJ understands both the language of photography and technical terms, such as photochemistry, exposure, different lenses and lighting. MJ knows different photographic styles and famous photographers as well.
Working with MJ I choose to lock myself in a small room, which features the aesthetics of an old analog photograph. It is true that the aesthetics of “a traditional photograph” displaying a patina of time and vintage style has become a cliché in the contemporary visual culture. This style is commonly used for visualizing so-called memories. I found it therefore a bit risqué to work with formal stereotypes and clichés.
However, it was this practice that helped me to explore what I was trying to grasp in my earlier work through painting, sound, and texts, namely the formation of my visual identity, which developed in the Soviet environment, living in a family of bohemian artists, and experiencing a non-conventional education. My experiences of artworks intertwined with the experiences of the built and natural environment in those days. As a child, I saw sculptures and paintings in what were simple in fact simple stones, buildings or plants. I saw imaginary friends and animals in sculptures and paintings.
The scale is very important. In my childhood memories, all objects, distances, and spaces appear many times bigger than those which I experience now.
And, of course, all this is filtered in my memory through the noises of the Soviet gloom and oblivion. MJ managed to produce that moody atmosphere quite well.
I do not know if these images are a work of art, but the process of making them was certainly an artistic practice. Although I was working to create an image about the past, the resulting images are also about the future. MJ, while being not yet perfect, is a new type of tool offering novel qualities. Robots grow stronger and more sophisticated every day. And are they not the only ones growing in the labs and startups. Their emergence is not just a technical matter but perhaps a paradigmatic shift in visual culture that can be compared with the impact of the invention of photography. This project contributes to the ongoing conversation about the possibilities, limitations, and use of AI in artistic practice.
The complete series consists of more than 50 images
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