Is using Artificial Intelligence to create a work of art cheating?
This may sound very artistic, but it violates and does not conform to what art historian Matthew Collings describes as the three myths of modern art: genius, originality and self-awareness.
This seems like cheating. Someone copying, not inventing, doing a giant “cut-and-paste” of styles and subjects from real painters.
Is a tool that synthesizes from what has gone before unworthy? The history of art is a long story of visual and artistic innovations that challenged the status quo.
Almost without exception, every new artistic movement was first hailed as unworthy of the title of art. Impressionism, Cubism, Minimalism, Conceptualism, Post-Modernism – indeed all “isms” – had detractors and detractors calling them crude.
The fear is that AI art will mean the end of human artists. It won’t be. We live in an age where computers can infer a beautiful, plausible picture from visual training data, but AI has no consciousness or awareness; it is a tool.
The question of AI art may seem difficult, but the AI engine is just that: an engine. It makes no creative judgments – it responds to the “intent” of the operator or artist, however. The artist must guide the AI, decide what changes to make and when to stop based on artistic merit.
The introduction of the camera obliterated the need for a painting as a tool for faithful reproduction or mirror imaging. If you wanted a realistic image, you could just take a photo.
Photography had a huge impact, just as AI is beginning to do, but it didn’t spell the end of art – rather it opened up new opportunities. Photography allowed for new ways of expressing artistic intent. Now the world has happy photographers, filmmakers and a host of other creative artists.
These AI tools offer a new way to explore ideas. It’s possible that these new visual engines will be an incredibly rich source of ideas and inspiration in ways yet to be discovered.
Digital artist Peter Moxom uses these new tools and will be the artist-in-residence at the Disrupt.Sydney conference, where he will assist media guru Adam Ferrier in a visual design thinking workshop with DALL-E.
There they will use the same AI art tools for problem solving and ideation. Art is the intention of the artist and the reaction of the viewer in a societal context.
From this perspective, new AI tools tick all the boxes: they can be used with intention, produce an emotional response in the viewer, and illuminate certain truths about our relationship to technology. As creative vehicles and tools for artistic ideation, AI art programs offer to augment and expand our artistic expression, and they are open to everyone.
Far from shutting down artistic expression, they allow anyone, with or without drawing or painting skills, to imagine new worlds, connect disparate ideas, and produce engaging art.
Dr. Mike Seymour is an internationally renowned expert in digital humans and AI, and an academic at the University of Sydney Business School.