Foam Magazine #66 – Missing Mirror

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Foam Magazine #66: MISSING MIRROR – Photography Through the Lens of AI

Are you a robot? is a question everyone has likely come across while using the internet. The most common way to prove that you’re, in fact, not a robot is by analysing a set of photographs and selecting the ones depicting a bus, a motorcycle, a fire hydrant, or a traffic light. With this simple but effective way, you demonstrate your ability to interpret images and automatically position yourself out with the capacities of traditional operating systems or viruses. Until now. The ability of machines to ‘see’ has improved tremendously over the past decades, meaning that computers have been trained, by humans, to recognise and generate images that come shockingly close to a photo. We recognise the need for a platform to understand the mechanics behind the technology, discuss how the photographic medium is influenced, and in which ways we need to adapt our reading and handling of images.

Photography Through the Lens of AI is a multidimensional project hosted by Foam, combining an exhibition, digital platform, and magazine. Together we look at the growing overlaps between art, technology, and society, exploring how the recent advancements in AI impact our relationship with the image, ourselves, and our perception of reality. How do we form a truthful image of the world when credibility is questioned? And vice versa, how do we recognise ourselves in the images around us?

As always, we are proud to present a stellar line-up in the feature section: Ocean Vuong and Jenn Nkiru share with us some candid insights into the images that have recently been on their minds, Kim Jeung Eun points out five fantastic photo books on her bookshelf and our dear Elisa Medde writes about Fear of Mirrors, a new research project by 2019 Foam Talent Alba Zari. On top of that, Ágnes Ferencszi gives us a detailed introduction to the history and development of AI as art, and Hito Steyerl discusses with Noa Levin the ecological impact of our contemporary image culture.

As the third episode of our university takeovers, Milo Keller, head of Photography at ECAL, reflects on a changing medium and how technological advancements are finding their way into the curriculum. The cover of this issue is graced with an emblematic image by Juan Manuel Lara, who has used words and metaphors from the short story ‘El Aleph’ by Jorge Luis Borges to generate images that take us into the uncanny valley, where poetry and surrealism meet. In the story, Borges introduces The Aleph, a sphere that concentrates all the images of the universe. Like a present-day Aleph, image-generating artificial intelligence programs grant the wish to shape all that can be named, on-demand and in the moment. With this issue, we hope to look at both the prospects and dangers this new medium brings to the photographic discourse when it functions as a tool.

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