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The (possible) future of Filipino lit: AI-made children’s book covers

Does anyone remember the robot/poet Estela Vadal

It’s a poetry-spewing makeshift figure made by poet Marlon Hacla which gained a cult following and toured bookstores and other art spaces back in 2019. Stare at Estela’s camera (like a photobooth) and it will generate a thermal-printed poetry for you.

Although Estela Vadal has retired, its creator has something new for us—an AI children’s book illustrator. 

In his continuous experimentation with artificial intelligence, Marlon created “Ang Alamat ng Panaginip” (The Myth of Dream) and trained an AI to create illustrations from scanned bargain books collected over the years. He then fed the illustrations to the AI to use as source data and to generate illustrations that seem abstracted from what can be imagined were their prior form.

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Ang Alamat ng Pag-iisa

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“Ang Alamat ng Panaginip” is currently on Load na Dito Projects’ Instagram, a mobile artistic and research project founded by artist Mark Salvatos and curator Mayumi Hirano. It’s part of Pasaload residency which utilizes digital media as an alternative exhibition platform.

The AI’s output is a mix of ambivalent shapes and figures that resist categorization. In its distorted state, the drawing’s original characters and backdrop are playfully meshed with each other. In one drawing, I can hardly tell a human body part from its normal state. Like an ode to fanciful creatures we drew on the back of our notebooks when we were kids, the illustrations display conjoined body parts that unsettle the viewer. Weird yet interesting and elusive.

It seems that machine learning has taken on many roles, including that of poet and illustrator. AI promises a lot of possibility for creative endeavors as it weaves us to advancements in ways not previously imagined. Sure it has limits but it is without a doubt close to magic as it can get.

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Art by Yel Sayo


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