Note — Aug 28, 2022

Infinite Images and the Latent Camera

Thanks to a quick workshop about prompt craft (thanks Dré!) and some current client work, I’ve been taking a closer look at synthetic media, and especially prompt-based image generators. This piece by Holly Herndon and Mathew Dryhurst from a couple of months back hit the spot. They offer a parallel with the late 19th century Pictorialists and use some of their own experiments to paint a picture (pun intended) of how AI tools might evolve and be integrated in artists’ work. It’s not the first time I read or listen to their ideas and, although largely correct, they seem to too easily gloss over copyright issues and the impact on artists who aren’t as at ease with technology as they are. That being said, they are launching an organization because “non AI artists need options to see themselves thriving in (and not steamrollered by) the AI art economy.”

To return to the original idea of extending a painting to reveal more of the scene, what might it mean to be able to produce infinite worlds from a single painting or photograph? This significantly augments the capacity of what we understand of generative art, when a coherent world, or narrative, can be spawned from a single stylistic or linguistic prompt. […]

We propose a term for this process, Spawning, a 21st century corollary to the 20th century process of sampling. If sampling afforded artists the ability to manipulate the artwork of others to collage together something new, spawning affords artists the ability to create entirely new artworks in the style of other people from AI systems trained on their work or likeness. […]

Memes are a distillation of a consensual/archetypical feeling or vibe, in much the way that the “Holly Herndon” embedding with CLIP is a distillation of her characteristic properties (ginger braid and bangs, blue eyes, often photographed with a laptop), or the “Salvador Dali” embedding is a distillation of his unique artistic style.