The piece is one of 5 pieces depicting the same garden under different light conditions from my long-form project 'Once Upon A Garden' – a digital garden born from a collaboration between me and a GAN which debuted at Art X Lagos in November 2022. It is a dystopian projection of a likely outcome of global warming, that depicts a world where humans now have to live with simulated images of plants and flowers, which have all disappeared from the earth. Through collections of AI-assisted photographs of a variety of indigenous flora, native to the Sahel region of West Africa, the installation puts forward the fundamental question:
Can our contemplation of art restore our collective ability to introspect on our environment and our sense of responsibility towards preserving it?
The installation attempts to answer this through the spectacle of flora as a distant memory, to elicit a longing for what has been lost and hopefully trigger the desire to protect what has survived.
I first compiled a list of over 100+ species of flora endemic to the Sahel region and classified as endangered by IUCN's Red List of Endangered Species. I then scoured the web for images of these plants to create the database I would later use in the first round of training. I had come across some of these plants before, but many were new to me. It dawned on me that I might not get to see a majority of these plants in nature within my lifetime given the rate at which wildlife is disappearing from the earth. From this database, I then shortlisted 8 of the plants that I imagine would fit well together in a bouquet, and used the commercial AI tool DALL.E to generate a large set of variations of each plant. This allowed me to compile a second, more refined, database specifically for this installation which I used to train a GAN. I used the GAN's initial outputs of 8,000 plant images to create animations of individual plants that I then brought together in the final composition.