سلف [Salaf] (2020) is part of my ongoing explorations into constructing my genealogical journey using two different voices: my own and an AI ‘narrator’.
As part of my current synthetic media residency at ThoughtWorks Arts, I am following the migrational patterns of my Saudi and Iraqi ancestors throughout Arabia and Mesopotamia, spanning five generations. By juxtaposing my untold Middle Eastern story with the viewpoints of Western AI models trained on constrained datasets, سلف reveals the political, social, and colonial forces that have shaped multiple voices of past generations. This stems from the bulk of the source material emanating from a British empire that purposefully crafted the East, i.e., the ‘Orient’ or ‘Other’ to be exploited and controlled. Using GAN models to process these British archives of Saudi and Iraqi regions, I encountered ‘failures’ in my output which reflect the larger problem of embedding and amplifying a culturally biased view of the Middle East.
سلف symbolizes those AI failures and the frustrations I felt in the Western colonial gaze, and the lack of native localized self-expression. Using U-2 Net, I erased the ‘oriental’ stereotypical figures in my datasets and trained StyleGAN2 on an absent dataset, signifying the eradication of my ancestor’s collective memory.
Note: سلف is a small piece of my overall story while I continue developing this project as an interactive storytelling experience.