'Cyborgbay' Is An AI Art Series That Reimagines Mumbai Through A Retrofuturistic Lens

'Cyborgbay' Is An AI Art Series That Reimagines Mumbai Through A Retrofuturistic Lens
Varun Gupta

Midjourney has become one of the most popular Artificial Intelligence programs since it entered open-beta on July 12 this year. It's an independent research lab that has a proprietary artificial intelligence program creating images from textual descriptors. It can be accessed only via Discord, a social platform, where it has its own server with nearly 5 million members at present.

Midjourney, text-to-art function has fascinated a lot of visual artists and photographers. Its general response to the most basic of 'prompts', which are the descriptors you feed into it, has an artistic style to it. When used right, these prompts can tell the program every single detail you'd like your result to have such as aspect ratios, styles of real artists, art movements, versions (Midjourney has released 4 versions since July), resolution and the degree of your specified prompt mixed with its own interpretations. It takes a while to get used to but having spent the entirety of my evenings on it for the last week, I can assure you it's highly addictive and absolutely mesmerizing.

Varun Gupta

Another one of the fun things Midjourney can do is alter images. Pictures can be uploaded to Discord to be used as a reference in a prompt or can be a template themselves that the program just adds to. With a good imagination and some prompt-crafting skills, the possibilities are endless with this program. A prime example of this comes from Varun Gupta, a visual storyteller who created a series called 'Cyborgbay' — a hypothetical retrofuturistic city of Bombay from 1997 where humans and cyborgs live together.

Varun is a cinema fanatic who has written and directed many ads and short films. He's also the head of a creative content agency called We Create Films. He studied animation and is a self-taught filmmaker who creates conceptual shorts like Bluebird and The Art of Living. Varun has been working with Midjourney since its release and the work of another AI artist, Prateek Arora inspired him to create his multi-period Cyborgbay.

Varun Gupta

Varun's universe of Cyborgbay is an ongoing series which he keeps adding multiple themes to. Since the first piece which was an introduction to this fictional city, the artist is now exploring the various facets within the subject like, 'Saturday Night Party in Cyborgbay', 'Monday Blues at Cyborgbay', 'Friday night show in Cyborgbay' and 'Lords of Cyborgbay'. The artist is currently working on a fashion-themed video for the same series.

Diving deeper into this world with each part of the series, Varun is expanding on the themes of realism and retrofuturism which is a strange play on time. The film colours in his pieces speak of nostalgia whereas the robotic elements in the image project us into the future. Also, it's great to finally see Indians imagined in science fiction because most of the stories in that world are dominated by the west that rarely features Brown characters and cultures. It's joked about in the sci-fi community as well. For instance, why do aliens only seem to invade America out of all the countries in the whole world?

The direction of where art is headed is changing at a frightening speed which is understandably overwhelming for traditional artists worried about the sanctity of the human creative process. But despite the valid concerns, others have accepted AI as just another tool and are onboard with a new artistic movement that has only just begun. Entire business models are emerging and shifting towards AI-generated art and we're definitely in for an exciting ride towards the convergence of technology and creativity.

Check out more from Cyborgbay here.

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