A man won first place in the Colorado State Fair fine art competition using an AI-generated artwork on Monday. “I won first place,” a user known as Sincarnate said in a Discord post, above photos of the AI-generated canvases on display at the fair. Sincarnate’s win sparked heated discussions on social media about the nature of art and what it means to be an artist. Some commentators believe that human art is doomed by AI and that all artists are destined to be replaced by machines. Others think the art will evolve and adapt to new technologies that come along, citing synthesizers in music.
Sincarnate’s name is Jason Allen, president of Colorado-based tabletop game company Incarnate Games. According to the state fair’s website, he won in the digital arts category with a work titled “Space Opera Theater.” The image, which Allen printed on canvas for submission, is stunning. It depicts an eerie scene that could be taken from a space opera and looks like a masterfully crafted painting. Classical figures in a baroque room step forward through a circular porthole into a sunny, radiant landscape.
But Allen didn’t paint the “Space Opera Theater”, an AI software called Midjourney did. He used his instructions, but Allen did not wield the digital brush. The accolade sparked controversy on Twitter where working artists and enthusiasts accused Allen of hastening the death of creative jobs. “We watch the death of art unfold before our eyes. “If creative jobs aren’t machine-proof, then even highly-skilled jobs are at risk of becoming obsolete. What will we have then?” said a Twitter user calling himself OmniMorpho in a response that got over 2,000 likes.
“I knew it would be controversial. How interesting how all those people on Twitter who are against AI-generated art are the first to throw the human under the bus by discrediting the human element! Does that sound hypocritical to you guys? said Allen on the Midjourney Discord server on Tuesday.
According to Allen, his contribution was instrumental in shaping the award-winning painting. “I explored a special post that I will post at a later date, created hundreds of images using it, and after many weeks of fine-tuning and selecting my people, I chose my top three images and had them printed on canvas after freeing myself from Gigapixel AI,” he wrote in a post before the winners were announced.
Allen said his critics judge art by the method of its creation, and eventually the art world will recognize AI-created art as its own category. “What if we looked at this from the other extreme, and if an artist did a series of wildly difficult and complicated constraints in order to create a piece, let’s say they made their art by being hung upside down and whipped while painting,” he said. Should the work of this artist be valued differently than that of another artist who created the same work “normally”? I know what’s going to happen to all of this in the end, they’re just going to create an ‘art of artificial intelligence’ category I guess for things like that.”
Artists are concerned about the rise of AI-generated art
Atlantic editor Charlie Warzel went viral after posting an edition of the magazine’s newsletter featuring a Midjourney-generated image of Alex Jones. A major post using AI for art instead of a human has upset a lot of people. “Technology is increasingly being deployed to create jobs and enrich billionaires, and much of that technology doesn’t seem to benefit the public enough. AI art is part of that. For developers and tech-savvy people, that’s a cool thing, but for illustrators, it’s very upsetting because it’s like you’ve eliminated the need to hire an illustrator, said cartoonist Matt Borrs to Warzel in a follow-up article.
There’s also the element of fairness, as it’s unclear if Allen told the judges about his use of CGI, although some Twitter users have apparently contacted the judges and found they were unaware. Allen said he clearly labeled his state fair submission as “Jason Allen via Midjourney”, and once again emphasized the human element needed to produce the work. “I generate images with MJ, I make passes with photoshop, and I upscale with Gigapixel”. Oddly enough, this work was deemed good enough to fool human artists, and someone on Twitter joked that it settled the debate over “whether AI art is art. “.
It should be noted that the invention of the camera in the 1800s brought about similar criticism regarding photography, as the camera seemed to do all the work, unlike an artist striving to create a work of handmade art with brush or pencil. Some feared that painters would become forever obsolete with the advent of color photography. In some applications, photography replaced more laborious methods of illustration (such as printmaking), but human fine art painters still exist today.
In their current state, image synthesis tools require a high degree of human guidance and selection to achieve remarkable results, but the field is changing rapidly and this may not always be the case. However, as new artistic tools emerge, the debate “Is it art?” will probably continue as long as there are people to discuss it.
Sources: TwitterColorado Fair
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