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  • Writer's pictureEleanor Crook

Bringing the Golden Bough




My artificially intelligent art assistant has been in the naughty corner since the new algorithm made him even more slick and trite. So I sent him off in search of the Golden Bough....Every so often the system I use, Midjourney, releases a new algorithm which makes the results more predictable, slick and conventionally attractive. This is because the users of the system generally want it that way - after all who'd deliberately produce ugliness, deformations, grotesquerie, in a world where even the surreal needs to be visually explicable and the abstract harmonious? To make it please me, I am needing to confuse and bamboozle the algorithms with conflicting prompts, impossible combinations and things the training set does not quite recognise. (The titles I give them are never the prompts by the way.) It's getting increasingly difficult to mine the subconscious with an AI tool that avoids all the corners of it where magic hides, because it prefers fantasy to phantasm, prettiness to beauty, recognition to disorientation. But isn't that true of all our aesthetic senses, soaked as they are in commercial coercion and ethical delusions? What William Blake called The Delusion of Ulro. "Ulro is the internal condition of blackness, opacity, and darkness which occurs when the Divine Vision is lost." - says Milton O. Percival.


Moreover - I sometimes feel, as these algorithms get more "advanced " and more boring, that far from AI destroying human creativity, it's humans who are destroying the creativity of the AI , in grasping after the pretty shiny PRODUCT. O tempora, o mores! . . The title of this one is Bringing the Golden Bough.

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