Art Intel

DALL-E is an artificial intelligence program for creating art of “art.” You type in words and it creates images in response. So I asked it to make something along the lines of Charlie Chaplin phrenologist sausage factory, and I have to say I was impressed by the results. I’d previously failed to get a decent Paulette Goddard from the thing, so had concluded it doesn’t really know movie stars, but it turns out it prefers an indirect approach to celebrity. The above images seem to me to belong to some kind of Chaplin universe / period. They’d also make great album covers. And I love the fumbling attempts at language that make you squint: “churmp” and “chappshges” and so on. If these aren’t images from Chaplin’s world, they’re from next door in the world of Yugoslavian animation.

Any human artist asked for a sausage factory would have drawn strings of sausages spooling from machines and placed a Chaplin at the conveyer belt, but DALL-E prefers the surprising and oblique.

I don’t know what happened to “phrenologist” but I like to think it had some kind of an influence.

Emboldened, I demanded Buster Keaton surrealist woodcut biscuits.

These aren’t quite as obscurely on point as the first set. Fig. (1) is too much like a dynamic comic book hero to have room for a trace of Joseph Keaton Jr. about him. They all look like woodcuts and they all feature biscuits, and the combination of “woodcut biscuits” proves an enticing one. They’re both dry, somehow, so they seem to belong together. Why do biscuit tins feature full-colour paintings so often when they could just go with b&w prints and make us salivate?

I would definitely like to be served biscuits with CINT, WITRID and IWOGT embossed on them. It would make me feel like I was eating a Polish phrase book (more dryness). The final image feels the most Keatonesque, though the third of the gloomy Gus’s staring from the shortcakes is clearly Howard Phillips Lovecraft, and how did HE get in here?

It was time Fiona had a turn. She asked for Conrad Veidt. Then she asked for a dog. I said, “Well, do you want Conrad Veidt AS a dog? She said sure.

Pretty well a 100% succcess, although, again, oblique. Infused with the spirit of Weimar, each image evokes something Veidt-related, and you definitely can’t claim the canine side was neglected. A twenties journalist described CV as “built along greyhound lines” but the pool-playing pooch in the flying gear, and the bloodhound in the leotard, neither one a whippet, clearly stare out at us with eyes that have seen the inside of Caligari’s cabinet.

Have fun here.

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