As the extent and inescapability of the current climate crisis dawn on us, big tech collectively engaged in artificial intelligence (AI) weapons race. They spend unimaginable amounts of scarce resources and energy to create an AI that generates endless streams of banal images and monotonous sentences. With the motto “fake it till you make it” looping in the background, these companies repeat the mantra that artificial general intelligence is just one step away. Promises and fears of AI replacing humans complement the hype.
Amidst all this AI snake oil and hype, a weird feeling lingers. While being truly remarkable, such technology is not trying to solve the real problems that the majority of us need to solve. We don’t need conversations with our younger selves, more images of Kelly Mckernan, or more fake bios. How about putting more effort towards cleaner air, less bureaucracy and corruption, and better healthcare?
Flag is an installation that revolves around an AI-generated QR code. A QR code is the emblem of contemporary internet links. It is an image automatically generated by a program as a navigation link for another program to read. It is an image created not for human aesthetics but solely for machine consumption.
At the same time, the now popular AI diffusion models are models that can generate surprisingly believable artistic imagery for humans based on an enormous collection of human art and online artifacts. But what if we ask an AI image generative model to create a simple machine QR code pattern? The AI will try to imitate the image of a QR code. Since the AI knows nothing about what a QR code is or how it works, the code it generates will not be readable by humans or machines. As a QR code, it will be impotent.
I placed the QR code that Stable Diffusion generated on a white flag. Flags are not just emblems of a country or institution. They are also used to mark items or raise attention. A correction program flags words that are not in the dictionary, and a flag is raised to draw the referee’s attention to a breach of the rules in soccer. A white flag is raised when one surrender.
The QR-adorned flag floats on a yellow torus that resembles a life belt – reminiscent of the hundreds of climate migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean sea. This image, with all of its symbolic content, repeats itself in different formats and genres, taking over the space of the gallery. It floats across a 3D ocean, the torus with the flag could appear also as an augmented reality sculpture and as a fleet of 3D-printed flags on toruses is ready to dominate a bookshelf or a corner of a physical space.