During the exhibition Arctic InfraScapes (2023, Vienna, Austria), Budapest-based artist Olga Lo orchestrated a collaborative performance with the participants of the roundtable and the generative artificial intelligence program, MidJourney.
The primary objective of this performance was to introduce novel visualization technologies to the scientists and demonstrate the advantages and possibilities offered by such programs. Notably, MidJourney eliminates the need for artistic skills, allowing users to navigate the program solely through writing prompts and commands. The algorithm behind MidJourney was trained on the rich collection of works of artists and photographers. It also possesses a remarkable sensitivity to narratives—an essential aspect showcased during the performance.
At the beginning of the round table session, Olga asked all participants to anonymously write down a series of words, encompassing adjectives, verbs, and nouns, that they associated with the future of the Arctic.
Communication with AI was conducted in two rounds. In the initial round of generations, words that appeared multiple times in the lists were utilized. Olga highlights that these images were predominantly somber and bleak, as they mainly conveyed common anxiety regarding the future of the Arctic region.
AI generated images based on the prompt: sustainable ice melting water dystopia hope energy it shall remain cold
However, in the subsequent round, AI was prompted to generate images based on unique words. The outcomes displayed a striking contrast, as they exhibited a broad spectrum of personal experiences and knowledge from the participants. These images were notably more diverse and infused with optimism, envisioning a future where nature and humanity coexist harmoniously.
AI generated images based on the prompt: sustainable contested indigenous muddy thawing shared ice non-human melting warming conflict colorful and noisy resilience on the edge void water underground quiet and dynamic natural hazards dystopia hope frozen fun urban energy waste change exploration structure green feeling it shall remain cold
The final generation resembled the previous one but with a significant distinction. Olga Lo introduced the element of National Geographic’s photorealistic Arctic imagery into the original prompt. As mentioned earlier, MidJourney is a program designed to explore textual prompts and the inclusion of these additional words aimed to elicit a “more realistic” portrayal. The outcomes of this iteration as supported by psychology, indicated that people tend to perceive reality with a bias towards darker perspectives due to negative thinking patterns. Consequently, the people depicted in these images appeared more isolated, seemingly striving to survive within their environment rather than harmoniously integrating with it.
AI generated images based on the prompt: sustainable contested indigenous muddy thawing shared ice non-human melting warming conflict colorful and noisy resilience on the edge void water underground quiet and dynamic natural hazards dystopia hope frozen fun urban energy waste change exploration structure green feeling it shall remain cold national geographic photorealistic Arctic
This experience not only revealed the thoughts and concerns regarding the future of the Arctic but also sparked a discussion about the role of texts and the potential of AI programs in creating visual narratives. It prompted further exploration and experimentation with artificial intelligence, opening up text-to-image problematics and inviting participants to contemplate the possibilities that lie ahead.