Chez Jo is generative AI series released by Linda Dounia as part of Feral File’s In/Visible exhibition. The exhibition explores the theme of underrepresented minority groups within large data sets often used in today’s AI systems. Each of the exhibition’s artist tell their unique story by training AI to better represent black cultures, lifestyles, and people. In Dounia’s project she draws inspiration from a childhood grocery market where she spent her days greeting her grandmother’s customers. Dounia attempts to recreate this nostalgic space through AI by generating commonly seen items in the store and then using p5js to collage them into new emergent compositions. Each piece provides a rare insight into Dounia’s childhood, hometown, and traditions.
“I remember my childhood home in Quartier Escale. The checkered staircase led to a corridor flanked by walls featuring oil paintings of Scrooge McDuck and other old-school Disney characters (or my grandfather’s best attempts at painting them). The outdoor cinema to the right, which he passionately managed, mostly showed Hindi movies and Westerns. The sweet smell of warm brioche wafted up and into the house through the balcony from the bakery on the ground floor. The bakery was once a grocery store, Chez Jo, where I spent many days as a toddler greeting my grandmother’s customers, while my parents attended school in a different town. Movie posters, plastered ads for sweet condensed milk, branded sacs of flour and onions and potatoes, cases of soda and beer in green glass bottles, camembert and brie wrapped in glossy paper, jars of pickled olives and chili and carrots — a symphony of colors now muted by a faltering memory. Fine art didn’t find its way to my hometown. We didn’t have museums or galleries. We didn’t have stewards of the finer things in life to tell us what beauty meant and what was worth contemplating. We had our own stuff, heaps of everyday life stuff, full of history and a distinct visual language that I contemplated in awe as a child. In the digital memory of the world, as evidenced by AI, my hometown is a blur, my people are distortions, and our perspective on art doesn’t matter. “Chez Jo” is a brute-force attempt at remembrance, coercing Midjourney to conjure up a sense of place and time it does not know well, using references it barely understands. ‘Chez Jo’ is a series of 61 works created in a procedural way with Midjourney and p5js. Through a traditional collage technique and stubbornness, my grandmother’s grocery store comes to life, imperfect and elusive, much like my memory of it.” — Linda Dounia