Infinite Eddies: An Elegy

A series of GenAI images of a man and a woman

A short essay on the genesis of Infinite Eddies, a Twine Elegy, co-created with Midjourney GenAI, written for The Future of Writing 2023 Exhibition, created for The Future of Writing Symposium, The Humanities and Critical Code Studies Lab (May 1, 2023).

 Infinite Eddies (2023) explores the affective dimension of Midjourney’s generative AI mediating one source photograph of my father and myself through multiple variations. Prompts recontextualize our mediated image in other places, times, storyworlds, and visual aesthetics, yet across the set the configuration of our bodies, our expressions, remain constants.

I see this manifest recurrence as an affective element in the visual evocation of a relationship, expressed in myriad variations and mutations of proximity and arrangement. Playing with prompts to influence the computational temperature of output images, this recurrent, mutable element troubles Benjamin’s formulation of the aura of the original work of art, conjuring instead an aura of affect in social relation and physical configuration, which manifests across an expanding set of images, often simulating photographs, yet which themselves lack the authenticity of the original photograph.

The aggregate effect is of eddies or ripples around the source photo, the unseen pebble dropped in a virtual pool. The spectrum of centripetal elements and patterns and centrifugal outliers open questions as to the extent of the data set determining the temperature of generated images, the parameters defining alignment (Christian) in the “magecraft of prompting” manifest in a spectrum of results from “Maximum Obedience” to “Maximum Surprise” (Kelly).

This is a short first version of a longer essay currently underway.

Brian Christian (2020). The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values

Kevin Kelley (2022). Picture Limitless Creativity at Your Fingertips. Wired. Nov. 17.