Every year it seems like the internet has done all it can to Garfield. The cartoon cat has ended up having his comic strip altered to center the fact that one time he smoked a pipe or in ways that leave his always hilarious jokes hanging suspended in air after thought bubbles and Garfield himself are removed from panels. Each time a new, increasingly bold take on Jim Davis’ magnum opus is revealed, it seems like the vibrant field of Garf-posting has reached its limit—that there’s nowhere left to go.
But then you see something like GANfield, a short work of artificial intelligence-directed animation from Daniel Hanley, and understand that the world of Garfield is more vast than the entire lifetime of our species can ever hope to explore.
In just under two minutes, each of these clips makes the possibilities inherent to AI-generated Garfield strips extremely clear. Trained on an entire internet’s worth of Garf material, Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) machine learning—which, in the past, we’ve seen create images of fake people and infinite fake foot pics—was made to digest a wealth of original and meme’d up comic strips and vomit forth what we see above.
Because GANs understand what they internalize in ways our puny, meaty brains can never comprehend, GANfield ends up consisting of strange, surrealist landscapes populated by melting orange cats, yellow dogs, and Jon Arbuckles. The strips’ three main characters ooze into one another, recombining into ungodly hybrids that quickly dissolve again to be born in new, awful forms. The process repeats over and over, word balloons drifting into one another and forming the native tongue of GANfield’s world: A gibberish combination of letters that the human mouth could never pronounce.
Those who watched a repost of the GANfield clip have managed, though, to discover hidden messages lurking within the abyss. At one point, the cat thinks “Fuck the police” and, in another moment, issues a dire warning: “Bkoni re dkehtee henpe the climate crisis is the final crisis of capitalism.”
Aside from these messages, GANfield communicates through means far beyond our cognition. Garfield’s body slops apart into puddles of curved bone and liquid fur while Odie twists into abstract sculptures of floppy ears and bulging eyes, smiling horrifically all the while.
Stare at these for hours and you’ll be no closer to understanding what GANfield is saying. Your mind, however, may try to protect itself by mirroring the swirling void it tries to comprehend, leaving you shaking on the floor, looking up at the paramedics as they gather you into their arms “Gheh? Se dhehb hehper twgiturs ng,” you scream. “Thnlbtueeup!”
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