(adjective) characterized by ambiguity; Am-phib-o-log´-i-a, from the Greek ἀμφί (amphi), on both sides, βὸλος(bolos), a throw, and λόγος (logos), a word; hence ἀμφιβολογία is a word or phrase susceptible of two interpretations.

Novum Instrumentum Geometricum
Illustration from Leonhard Zubler’s Novum Instrumentum Geometricum (1607)

While we profess to love the ‘natural’ world, our experience of it is increasingly filtered by unnatural technologies. Cameras add filters and distort pictures to make them more instagrammable. Pocket-sized artificial intelligences track our lives, recognizing faces, places and products. Even on a cloudy day the great eye in the sky will help us find the way and useful suggestions are always at hand.

Here at the Department of Amphibological Research, we push the limits of artificial intelligence by (mis)using them in natural environments. In seeing the world through the eye of the AI, we find an unexpected muse for botanical and biological illustration.

William Beebe in the bathysphere. © Wildlife Conservation Society

Inspired by William Beebe’s historic deep sea expeditions in the bathysphere, in which he described never before seen creatures to illustrators on the surface via telephone, our explorations use only AI-generated descriptions and other artificially filtered methods to explore and catalogue the natural world. This digital game of telephone helps us to see the world from new perspectives and discover new fictional species along the way. Half surreal and half serious, the project is a parody of a Western scientists who travelled around the world ‘discovering’ and classifying nature according to their own cultural biases.

Else Bostelmann paints deep sea gulper eel from specimen, Nonsuch Island, Bermuda, 1930s. WCS Photo Collection



The Department of Amphibological Research was founded by Matteo Farinella and Pamela Parker in 2018. Pictured here in their first field office at DiNaCon