After Long War

Digital images created with generative AI and edited in Lightroom, 2022.

Generative AI is seen by many as a new "artistic tool." The word "tool" implies that AI is a tool for its creator, helping her realize her concepts and dreams. Tools are passive; they cannot do anything on their own. However, I began to regard my experience with generative AI as a real conflict with actual adversaries. It seems to be a contest or war against formidable, obviously very clever opponents who have goals that diverge from mine.

During generative AI training, a computer extract frequently occurring patterns from the data. Infrequent patterns are ignored. Thus, when you use a trained AI model to create new images, it frequently produces content that is clichéd, common, and stereotypical.

I have been using a number of strategies to avoid this and to get AI to generate more unique images that fit my particular aesthetic criteria - but it is usually a real struggle. Sometimes I use long and deliberately ambiguous texts prompts to confuse AI, so the generated images are ambiguous. I also usually include a number of reference images along with the text prompt. These can be photos of my own early drawings, 16th-18th century paintings and prints, photographs of spaces where I grew up, and other visuals. And sometimes I don’t specify any text prompt, but only as multiple images as my prompt. And I also set values of certain parameters in AI tools to prevent it from making images that maybe very beatiful but also full of clichés.

This series uses an alternative approach. I noticed that using the word "Moscow” in my prompts resulted in generated images that always shown the Kremlin, Russian churches, or at the very least, some architecture with a classical appearance. Apparently, generative AI learned these visual stereotypes of "Russia from the millions of images on the internet that were part of its training data.

So I chose to leave these clichés while altering their context rather than trying to get rid of them.
We are seeing scenes from a potential future, after the nation's economy completely stagnated as a result of the protracted war, or possibly after some human-made catastrophe, rather than a joyful tourist photo environment. My prompts included the following phrases: “monumental wasteland valley with decaying abandoned..”, “epic wasteland valley with a road going to horizon..”

“wasteland valley with 1 km long one-story white GDR socialist apartment building..”