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Artist Blog by Alfred Marseille

Inspired by an open call from Der Greif, I made a short series exploring how to depict authentic emotions with AI-generated imagery. To do this I used parts of Ahmad Shamlou’s poem ‘Common Love’ as guidance for every image in this series. The phrases I worked with most of the time were: ‘I am the common pain / cry me out’ and ‘In clear solitude I have wept with you / for the dead of this year / Beheld the greatest love when alive’.

In this, as in the other series I made with AI, I was looking for universal values, and how AI makes a specific interpretation of them using the entire visual culture and our collective subconscious as it is recorded on the internet. For instance, in the series that I made, several images strongly resemble well-known wartime images from countries like Iraq or Syria. Other photos bear a striking resemblance to photos taken by the FSA in the 1930s in the USA. These parallels are not mere coincidences. The extensive FSA databases are readily accessible online, and the winning photos from prestigious competitions like World Press Photo are also well-documented.

In the instructions that I gave the AI I intentionally avoided explicit references to a particular period or location. However, they emerged next to blatant clichés and the obvious cultural, racial and gender biases. I had to carefully guide the AI through this, urging it to express intricate and conflicting emotions and to portray a more profound ‘soul’ within the images it generated. Again, this is somewhat of a trial-and-error process, where the most intriguing outcomes arise when the AI is given no concrete directives at all.

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