Make Kin, Make Kin (video edition), 2023
I have long been fascinated with using computational tools to depict or inspire other places and ecologies, both real and imaginary. In my previous series Cave Paintings, I used prompt-based AI image generators that I self-assembled, to create subterranean landscapes that blurred the distinction between nature and culture, fusing the pop of the modern world with natural elements. Rock faces in these caves appeared to be curiously carved into recognisable forms not associated with caverns, brought into being by the software’s recollection of the human world and culture it had been trained on.
This new project further expands on my work and reimagines AI generated image-making as a collaborative process involving the local ecology and wildlife found in my garden. The garden is never fully wild, nor fully human-led, it is in itself an ongoing cooperation to make a more hospitable environment for both humans and other species, involving a negotiation of needs. The artworks are generated by photographing the different plants and animals in the garden, and using these as prompts to steer the image-making process, alongside my own written requests and previous artworks as prompts. The AI process then has to find a compromise and generate images that satisfy both goals. The resulting images appear comprised of elements evoking everything from stones or stems, topiary or tunnels, ferns or faces, fossils or found objects. The AI is purposefully constrained in its ability to resolve the image, abstracting outcomes and impeding categorisation. In addition, this series uses shaders to animate the outputs, suggesting flows of information interconnect and ripple through all the elements in the assemblage.
In my project Make Kin, Make Kin, I make reference to Donna Haraway’s provocative plea to “make kin, not babies”, suggesting that an urgent response to biodiversity loss is to imaginatively expand our understanding of the persons we care for to include nonhumans. In doing so, we would care for other species as extended family. The title also subverts the premise of the dystopian book Make Room, Make Room that played out fears of out-of-control population growth, to reimagine a future characterized by a surge in biodiversity and more-than-human kinship. This project is as much an ongoing performance as well as a series of outputs, in which I am prompted by the artistic process to foster a deeper connection with the local ecology and be more attentive to the co-inhabitants of a shared garden.
– Matthew Plummer-Fernández