By Ada Popowicz
If human reality is only validated by the tyranny of words, we’re but complacent phantoms ever building the simulacrum of our constructed fictions. Thus, a solely language-bound reality lacks the mystery of transcendental silence.
René Magritte- L’Apparition, 1928
Taxonomic Labyrinths: The Atlas of Latent Species is an ongoing research project that explores how users engage with generative AI models, with a particular focus on the new taxonomies that emerge from these encounters. The project aims to question the representational capacity of language by highlighting the arbitrary nature of taxonomies and their role in ordering our world. Central to the project is the mapping and analysis of online repositories of knowledge within communities of prompt engineers (including open-access documents, guides, and Excel sheets) to uncover what it means to categorize visual reality with the ultimate goal of smoother and fully automated creative production.
Inspired by a diverse selection of artists, writers, and scholars, including Michel Foucault, Georges Perec, George Lakoff, Jorge Luis Borges, Bill Wurtz, Batia Suter, Aby Warburg, Hieronymus Bosch, Paul Laffoley, and René Magritte, the project examines their shared practice of questioning the categorization-based sense-making practices and the relationships between text and image in the context of such taxonomies.
Ultimately, Taxonomic Labyrinths provides insight into how generative AI models are transforming our understanding and use of language in both its visual and textual modalities. By connecting academic and artistic methodologies, the project charts new paths of inquiry into the ways in which we order the world and what tools we use to create an understanding of the shared reality.