Title: Plague Planet (SpringBreak Art Show 2021)
Date Created: 2021
Medium: AI Tapestry, Installations, Tapestry, Textiles, Wall Coverings
Installation as part of SpringBreak Art Show 2021: HEARSAY:HERESY. Curated by Margot Nishimura
In the near future computer models have severely underpredicted polar glacial melting, flooding vast portions of today’s land areas. Global warming has led to a series of fires that burn unpredictably and are almost impossible to extinguish. At the same time, sudden cold snaps and ice storms form out of nowhere, bringing freezing temperatures and damaging hail, destroying the earth’s remaining crops.
As the wealthy did in Medieval times, the uber-rich of this catastrophic future activate their escape plans. Some move to floating cities on endlessly drifting yachts and others board spacecraft heading to find new worlds beyond our own. In the same way that the courts of the Middle Ages would bring their tapestries with them to each seasonal castle, so the escapees from our Plague Planet will be able to fold up the art that tells the story of these times for future generations.
Digital Jacquard weaving references the Jacquard loom’s key role in history as the first computational device programmable with punch cards.
Content ranges from apocalyptic scenes of the Plague Planet to vessels drifting forever at sea and new forms of space travel. The final products display status and wealth, preserve historical narrative, and express the hope of new beginnings.
To honor the pros and cons of today’s technology, all the images in this installation are created with artificial intelligence (AI). (For the technically inclined, the process used a combination of GANs based on custom image sets, style transfer techniques and VQGAN+CLIP aka text-to-image.) And just as the lack of linear perspective characterizes the approach to plastic and narrative space in Medieval tapestries, so AI goes beyond Renaissance and photographic perspective to bring a new approach to defining space.
Tapestries were typically hung in many different architectural settings during their lifetime, making the impromptu nature of a Spring/Break Art Show installation particularly apt. Growth sequences of AI-created gems are the basis for the room’s wallcovering, further customizing the space.
Spalter was inspired by several key 14th century tapestry series but none more than the Apocalypse tapestry in Angers, France, depicting scenes from The Book of Revelation. Pundits have claimed the current global pandemic is a signal of the end of days, and thus textiles seemed an appropriate medium to help her ponder our moment in time and potential future. She was also influenced by modern “war rugs,” hand hooked carpets from war-torn areas in the Middle East incorporating military iconography.
“Using tapestry helped me connect with the recurring fears of mankind during historical plagues, wars, and political unrest,” Spalter states.
All tapestries are unique.