Whispers of a Misremembering

Let us for a moment consider a photograph. No longer the result of a series of chemical reactions in a dark room, today an image is only an image because an algorithm says it is.

So let us begin by collecting a series of images from the property search website Zoopla, so we can peer into the homes of the anonymous, gaze upon their personal spaces, glimpse their bathrooms. Now let us pass these images to an AI and ask it to consider what it sees, let it imagine something new.

But these AIs are “idiots”, all they know is the brute force of thought, to look for repeating patterns, to bludgeon their way to a conclusion – they cannot think for themselves. What the image contains is of no interest to the machine, that it is data is enough.

The resulting images, while seemingly correct to the machine, are to us riddled with mistakes, what comes to pass is fuzzy, almost dream like.

Now let us have a bespoke algorithm ask the artist to consider the same image on its terms, to paint what the machine instructs. But we are “idiots”, unable to see the image within the simple instructions it tasks us. The resulting image bears no obvious visual connection to the original.

What we are left with is a meeting of excess and reduction where the machine is asked to imagine what there isn’t and the artist is asked to exclude to the detriment of the image. Neither artist nor machine knows the content of the image.

Here the possibility of the glitch, the error and the unexpected are introduced, a process that is heightened when both resulting images are combined to form a new image, a composite that adds the excess of the digital image to the reduction of the painterly image to create a new whole.

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