“The Drowned World” series (2017)

“The Drowned World” series is an exploration of J. G. Ballard’s dystopian climate novel The Drowned World. Using AI style transfer technologies I explore this metaphor by blending the present with its potential transformation.


The narrative of the drowned world suggests the future lives in the past. Edited photography of local buildings whose future seems uncertain (upper right) is merged with a ‘style’ image that emerged earlier in the process (upper left). The lower left blend is an abstraction resulting from negative content weighting and some post-production noise reduction, the lower right blend is approaching the ‘feel’ of the intended theme.

While exploring this theme I began to look at the local environment in a new and sometimes serendipitous way where simple occurrences like the chance finding of a water soaked movie ticket, like the upper image below, took on strange and suggestive new forms.

A found by chance water-soaked movie ticket (top) convolved with a painting (not shown) by Dada/Surrealist artist Max Ernst obliquely referenced in Ballard’s novel. This pairing (bottom) represents the ‘chance operations’ aspect of compositional process. The Ernst painting I chose to match Ballard’s description was ‘Petrified Forest’ (1927) retrieved from the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. It may be seen at http://collection.nmwa.go.jp/en/P.1965-0005.html.

In the myth of the drowned world the once iridescent glory of steel and concrete transforms to an organic memory of the primeval.

Images here capture two central visual metaphors of Ballard’s text; that of cities (top) destroyed by the environment and that of the environment (bottom) nurtured by the dying cities.

Ballard suggests that as the environment transforms to an earlier geological era, human consciousness also reverts to a more ancient form. This radical idea seems strangely relevant in the climate related social disintegration we find ourselves moving towards in the current time.

The blurring of lines between stable land and submersion, structures of human crystalize into a striated landscape of empty shells….

Shells are also homes for creatures not always human. As the climate reverts to swamps and wet lands, life forms unseen for millions years begin to emerge. The novel is full of lizards of various types, with oblique references to the reemergence of large dinosaur-like giant alligators and numerous iguanas which infest the shells of collapsing buildings. I have skinned one of these and used it as a texture in another convolution of the drowned world.

The bottom image blends an image of an iguana (Ballard’s world is crawling with them) with a painting by Max Ernst. The top image was edited and used to style the bottom result. The iguana is retrieved from here.

About Suk Kyoung Choi

artist / researcher

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