Latent Imaging and Imagining – Queer mode of accessing childhood memories

Created by Lotta Stöver, Latent Imaging and Imagining is part of an autoethnographic artistic research study to explore the concept of chrononormativity through an inverted perspective of nonconforming and how to negotiate a careful and queer mode of accessing childhood memories.

The photo series is based on a selection of personal childhood photos of the artist. These photos have been manipulated in a process of selectively re-imagining male-coded parts in the artist’s appearance within the images using a commonly available out-painting text-to-image AI tool. A few images have only been using the prompt “girl”, others needed more specific prompts, such as “a girl with brown hair holding a bunny”, etc. The resulting generated latent variations are printed on Polaroid film.

This work is rooted in an instance of trans(-feminine) temporality, in which transness and processes of transitioning have enabled and positioned the artist outside a chrononormative biography and life schedule, where from a normative viewpoint childhood, adolescence and adulthood stand in temporally discontinuous relation towards each other: A friction that enables one to explore modes of becoming an embodiment of alternative spatiality and temporality, not determined by the constraints and implications of cis-heteronormativity and the gender binary. Besides the resulting joy, euphoria and pleasure though, this friction also causes certain stresses and dysphoria, such as the felt “loss” or inability of having been experiencing girlhood. Latent Imaging and Imagining as a methodology therefore attempts to care for this situation by layering generated imaginative imagery as latent versions of the artist’s childhood photos and memories, thus balancing and negotiating degrees of maintenance, disruption and repair.

Lotta Stöver

Based on a dataset of millions of images labelled as “girl”, the used AI tool generates images which the AI considers as female-passing. So not only does the AI come from a stochastic process of coming to terms with what it classifies as “girl”, what might also be called a potential bias, considering it is not transparent what images specifically have been used. Also, the idea of what passes as “girl” (used as a prompt) to the AI, can be observed in the resulting images: A cute white blonde healthy middle-class-looking girl. Only adding more detailed descriptions to the prompts, such as “girl with brown hair”, “a young girl in a t-shirt”, led to better, more realistic results for the purpose of this work.

The project uses OpenAI‘s Dalle-2, Python, Tensorflow and OpenCV. Polaroid Lab was used to print the photos on Polaroid I-Type film.

Project Page | Lotta Stöver

Project developed at the Digital Media Bremen program