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Jeremy Botts

AI & the Liberal Arts Faculty Reflection

100x100 Jeremy BottsJeremy Botts, M.F.A., Associate Professor of Art

The piece began at the encouragement of seminar leader Richard Gibson, who invited me to bring an ink pot and goose feather quill, and do some writing as our conversations flowed. I made a small booklet with yellow architectural tracing paper, which yielded intentionally unexpected moments when the wet ink smeared and stuck between pages, leaving traces as well as being alternately visible forwards and backwards. I photographically documented this booklet and used these images to recompose a new iteration in the digital environment, this time incorporating imagery and text generated both in the naturally created way (inspiration) and via artificial intelligence (ChatGPT, midjourney, etc...).

Reflecting back on the years I lived with my grandparents and all the new and emerging technologies they negotiated in their nearly ten full decades of life, I thought it would be interesting to introduce ChatGPT to their memory. So I playfully plunked in the following prompt: "Hey ChatGPT! Can you write a folksong about an old Sunday-School-teaching Pennsylvania farmer named Charlie, who played hymns on his harmonica, and whose wife Pearl made sweet tea and chicken corn soup, and told stories with her flannelgraph?"

The resulting text surprised and moved me in ways, and I decided to make a quick recording of me singing it to the tune of "Just As I Am" and accompanied with autoharp. It seemed only natural to bring it back to the booklet sequence, and once there it wanted to become a video piece. I invited Fred, Victoria, Alex and Samantha (the Mac system voices) to read additional text elements, and added them to the increasingly complex, layered soundtrack.

At the end there appears (well, it's actually read by Victoria again) a line from a poem I wrote twenty years ago in the woods of my grandparents' farm: "The salamander smiles with its tail impossibly black. 'You think you’ve found me…' he says."

A PDF version of this presentation is available for download.

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