Farfara 2031, referring to an island that appeared sporadically on maps of the 16th century, is a project and research process, using the procedure of bidding with this fictional island for the title of European Capital of Culture (ECoC). Designed as an artistic experimental platform Farfara2031 aims to push the boundaries in thinking, practising and experiencing what an ECoC may be if virtuality is considered as a new form of cultural ‘physicality’.
Myself and collaborator Luke Conroy were selected by the Farfara 2031 team to undertake a 3-week research-oriented residency within this program. During the residency we proposed to reflect upon and rethink our practice in virtual space. While typically our practice relies on physical 'contact' with a community, we wanted to consider how such contact could take place virtually. In response to our reflection and research on this topic we produced the physical outcome of a postcard.
A guiding ethos of the Farfara 2031 project is a belief that arts programming and producing art in the digital realm should go beyond a process of digitisation of an analogue format. Through the creation of a virtually inspired postcard, we aimed to experiment with the impacts of reversing this order of thinking. Rather than digitising an analogue format, we created an experimental work drawn from the digital realm yet presented in an analogue context.
Those who received a postcard were addressed personally by the island of Farfara - a speculative, other-than-human ‘persona’. While the postcard looks and feels like a typical tourist postcard, the images depicted are of a place that doesn’t exist and the written text on the back was not thought up by a human. Instead, all stages of the creation of the postcard were conceived and created through a series of AI interventions by the artists. Via text-prompting from the artists, the images on the front, the stamp and the writing itself were all generated by AI. Despite possessing all the indicators of an intimate communication method, the postcard was artificially mediated from a variety of rational digital technologies.
The process of ‘AI prompting’ took the following form. First the AI was prompted to generate a variety of textual descriptions of Farfara, by asking it a series of targeted questions based on the following seven topics - food, tradition, locals, environment, animals, culture, buildings and tourism. To extend beyond the limitations of a completely ‘English-centred’ approach, each AI text output was then passed through each of the 24 official languages from the European Union. This was a 'transmission chain' experiment, where passing information from one language to the next left subtle changes and language impressions.
With the final descriptions in the seven categories, the text outputs were then placed into a further AI tool which generates visual imagery from text. This generated a total of 528 images, from which we selected the best from each category. These images can be seen down here.
The aim of the work was to experiment with blurring the boundaries between the real and imagined. This shift of placing the digital in an analogue format disrupts the perceived nature of technology and digital spaces as possessing a certain ‘coldness’, as a purely rational and instrumental rather than emotional. Creating a work where the digital and physical blur and overlap, we aimed to present an object capable of stimulating meaningful experiences where the audience can reflect upon their relationship with other-than-human entities and their capacity for connection in virtual spaces.
The virtual residency was part of the broader Farfara 2031 project, supported by the team of Toni Attard, Margerita Pulè, Maren Richter and Karsten Xuereb. This project was funded by Arts Council Malta Digital Project and Development Fund