Climate imaginaries, co-authored with machines 

All Gone is an experiment in which AI is repurposed as a co-author of climate future stories and a co-designer of accompanying images. With audio stories, a tarot deck, and a wall tapestry, All Gone offers tools for reflection on the present and possible futures of living with climate change.

All Gone is part of the larger program Climate Futures: Machine learning from cli-fi, in which we collaborate with algorithms to create new imaginaries for life with a changing climate. Climate Futures is kindly supported by CoECI Amsterdam.

All Gone tarot cards each have their accompanying audio story. 

All Gone audio stories

selection of All Gone audio stories, narrated by Janine Armin, is available on Spotify:

0. All Gone
1. The Murky Liquid Reservoir
2. The House Engulfed with Trees
3. Poisoned
4. The Thirst
5. The Floating Dartboards

Rationale: A crisis of imagination

As the climate crisis is also a “crisis of imagination” (Ghosh, 2016), the artistic research project Climate Futures turns to the genre in the arts that is best at forecasting and imagining futures: science fiction. Using collections of ‘cli-fi’ novels, a genre in which science fiction meets natural disaster or heavy weather, algorithms are trained until they are able to render new climate imaginaries in textual and visual form.

In the artistic research project, AI functions as a co-author, who has (machine) learned about climate imaginaries on the basis of training sets of climate fiction literature and climate-themed visual arts, and Hollywood ‘climate disaster’ film trailers. Subsequently, we design queries to prompt the trained algorithms to create new climate imaginaries, in text and in visual form. Subsequently, we edit these machine-generated cli-fi narratives and translate them into short stories, illustrations, and videos. The clifi stories are narrated by a human voice that sends back messages from imagined futures, like postcards from the post-Anthropocene.

To test the possibilities of collaborating with AI also to design landscapes and illustrations for our stories, we work with another machine: the Attentional Generative Adversarial Network. This is a text-to-image model that can synthesize fine-grained details of an image by paying attention to the relevant words in a description.

The new synthetic images made on the basis of the co-authored texts were then translated into a tarot deck. Each card with its own assemblage of machine-created images, and its accompanying audio story. The core image (one of the major Arcanas in the tarot deck), titled All Gone, was also rendered into a large wall tapestry, through digital 3D knitting technology at AMFI’s 3D knit fieldlab. 

All Gone has been presented at ARIAS-event Listening to AI in Amsterdam (2020), the conference Deep Cities 3 in Lausanne (2021), Gogbot Café Eindhoven, and is part of Listening to Forests at ZKM (June 2021). The wall tapestry will be exhibited at Culture Club Amsterdam (June 2021). A performance adaptation is being developed by Zikzira Teatro Fysico in Brazil.

All Gone wall tapestry design, a collaboration with Hanneke Luning and prof. Troy Nachtigall, AMFI fieldlab 3D knitting.

See also:
Podcast interview by ARIAS’ Morgane Billuart with Sabine Niederer, Andy Dockett and Carlo De Gaetano about the project

Podcast series Turning to the Birds, our first collection of cli-fi audio stories, on Spotify.