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Uncanny Singapore-64.jpg

Emergent City, 2023

"The map is not the territory. The photograph is not the place."

ChatGPT, 2023


These AI generated images evoke a peculiar sense of familiarity and unease. We recognise the places and architectures, the textures and tones, yet something feels amiss. These images of a city linger in an uncanny valley, close enough to what we know to seem familiar but different enough to unsettle.

By generating these black and white scenes using AI, I have created images that are both highly realistic and somehow unreal. They depict places that could exist but do not—virtual non-places. Through the manipulation of algorithms and machine learning, I crafted something both technical and deeply human. AI is an extension of human imagination and reflects the interests and biases of its creators. This work reveals the psychological effects of navigating spaces that are familiar-but-not, spaces that unsettle our sense of place and remind us how much we rely on patterns to know where we are.

Emergent City pushes the boundaries of photographic expression using cutting-edge technologies. But it also taps into something timeless in how we understand spaces and reconstruct places in our mind's eye. These images dwell in the gaps between the physical world and our mental representations of it. By twisting and distorting our expectations of urban architecture and landscapes, this work transports us to a place that is uncannily familiar yet estranged in feeling.

We know places through the images we hold of them in our memory and imagination. Photography has a paradoxical relationship to place—it captures a moment in time yet also constructs a space that endures. Emergent City manipulates this relationship, generating scenes that are physically impossible yet psychologically compelling. These worlds exist somewhere between our world and the possible worlds deep within the networks that create them. They align with Marc Augé's theories of non-places and hyperreality, spaces detached from history and local identity. Are these authentic or simulated versions of a city? They exist in an in-between state.

Photographs have long had a direct relationship to reality that this work complicates. Emergent City dwells in the gaps between the familiar and strange, the real and virtual, place and memory. By transporting recognisable scenes into the realm of the off-kilter and hyperreal, this work questions how we know and understand the spaces we inhabit. It invites us to consider how intelligent machines may come to impact and shape that understanding, for better and for stranger. Using AI and experimental photography, I crafted an uncanny world that evades fixed meaning—a place both utterly familiar and unlike anywhere at all

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