Art Works Next Age Tech

AI Artists Debut To The Art World. But Is It Really Art?

Is it art if there's no story behind the artist?

While reviewing press releases for AI artists debuting this fall I was reminded of an episode of Odd Mom Out, a TV series following an upper east side artist, wife and mother of 3 who doesn’t quite fit in. In a recent episode she flounders while talking to a New York Magazine art critique at her debut show when she doesn’t have a decent backstory for her photographs.

Jill Kargman in Odd Mom Out
Jill Kargman in Odd Mom Out

It got me to thinking about what attracts us to art. Is it just the aesthetics or is it the aesthetics + the backstory of the artist. Would Jean Baptiste’s work be as prolific if we didn’t understand his history? One could argue that understanding why the art stands before us as it does adds to its appeal.

For AI artists there isn’t personal history or a muse in the traditional sense. AI artist are fed art images, thousands of images, and are taught to recognize the difference in styles. Through observation, they then generate their own images.

But is that art?

“If we teach the machine about art and art styles and force it to generate novel images that do not follow established styles, what would it generate?” lead author Dr. Ahmed Elgammal of the Art and Artificial Intelligence Lab at Rutgers wrote. “Would it generate something that is aesthetically appealing to humans? Would that be considered ‘art’”?

Artist Devin Fleenor believes so. He will debut S.E.E.D., an artificially intelligent installation, in Toronto and Mexico City this Fall.

The AI artist S.E.E.D. (our cover gif) is an algorithm. It uses three dimensional geometric light shapes reverberated by analog video feedback to create a psychedelic visual experience.

S.E.E.D. also interacts with the audience. Their reflections are recognized, pulled in, synthesized, processed, and glitched to become an active part of the visual installation.

And S.E.E.D. changes naturally on its own, matching behaviors, stories, reactions, and soundscapes. Positive emotion is monitored and remembered, and S.E.E.D. adapts to give people more of what they like.

I suspect in time AI artists will match great artists of the past and maybe exceed some in beauty, technique and skill. But inherent meaning, uniqueness and fulfilled intent isn’t something you can be fed.

Until AI artists can be taught to take in the world around them, I suspect their art will be a hollow representation of other great art.

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