Apocryph

Six centuries later, the learning algorithm Stylegan2 follow the heritage of medieval copyist monks and creates a new version of the "Book of hours", an apocryphal work.


Facsimile book (23,7 x 35 x 5,7 cm), bound in full buffalo leather, with hand-sewn thread edges and a Bordeaux bookmark, handmade paper weighing 130g from the "Moulin Richard de Bas" (Auvergne, France) / 2 x Raspberry PI Zero + 8" IPS HDMI display

Apocryph highlights two issues that have emerged with the widespread use of artificial intelligence: If A.I. is trying to imitate the way human beings learn and do things, will it be able to fully take their place ? Does it produce an apocryphal work: an unidentifiable, dubious or even fraudulent work, when data processing rhymes with the anonymization of its sources, the recomposition of works and the dissolution of their origins, including the author’s copyright ?

I postulate here that machine learning processes extend the work of medieval copyist monks. In doing so, they also inherit their anonymous status, because at that time, the notion of authorship did not exist. The artist did not express himself as an individual.
His apprenticeship was also very long. Each copy gave rise to infinite variations according to the skill, imagination or integrity of the copyist. So much so that the apocryphal status of some is debated. Many of these manuscripts are available on Gallica.bnf.fr or Archive.org. This is the case of the “Book of Hours”. Copied many times since the 13th century, this prayer book was one of the most used by lay Christians. The rare versions that have survived have acquired the status of a work of art. I choose to continue this work without authenticated origin or author and to train the StyleGAN2 learning algorithm with 40 versions from the 15th century.

A new “Book of Hours” is shown on two video screens embedded in the double page spread of a book. The reader sees a calligraphic Latin text written in front of him. However, this is only an illusion. On closer inspection, the drawings are chimerical and the words unintelligible. The monks’ copying is unmatched.

Apocryph thus deliberately demonstrates the transformation of an original work through copying. Besides its critical scope, the work also raises the ethical question of the supposed almighty power given to the generative algorithm and the apocryphal status of the texts and images it produces.





Apocryph

2023