What is art seems to be a question that resurfaces every time there is some new “development” in the art world- new technique, unusual objects, even artists. Is it art to reject conventional ways of painting and only put on canvas your immediate impressions? (Impressionists, 1863) Is it art to hang a urinal on the wall? (Marcel Duchamp, 1917) Is it art if an animal creates it? (Koko the Gorilla, 2014) Is it art if a computer generates it? (GAN, 2018)
This week Christie’s Auction House will auction a “portrait” created/generated by GAN (Generative Adversarial Network) . It was not created by any human mind but rather through an algebraic formula. On the Christie’s website, one of the scientists behind the experiment states, “‘The algorithm is composed of two parts,’ says Caselles-Dupré. ‘On one side is the Generator, on the other the Discriminator. We fed the system with a data set of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th century to the 20th. The Generator makes a new image based on the set, then the Discriminator tries to spot the difference between a human-made image and one created by the Generator. The aim is to fool the Discriminator into thinking that the new images are real-life portraits. Then we have a result.’
Is art what is created or is there more behind the creation? A need to express a feeling or an emotion? Does it have to have original thought? Is it art only if it creates a response from the viewer? Is it art if no one sees the work? Is it art if it is created by aesthetic principles and by form? Or can art express something conceptual?
I think art is another opportunity for us to be co-creators with God. Not that we are God but we have the opportunity to bring to fruition an original idea. Regardless of the genre, the artist has “breathed life” into his/her work.
Just like God created us for community, I also think art is intwined with the viewer. For art to be impactful and to have lasting purpose, it needs to be shared in community: it needs the viewer (others) to respond to it. While there is a need in artists to create regardless of the response (not for others’ viewing or financial gain) ultimately we create to share new ideas, concepts, emotions in a communal sense. Art provides a way for us to explore, to understand and to explain our world.
It seems to me what is lacking in the machine generated image is the need to create and express oneself. Of course, the question could be asked, was Koko expressing herself when she painted the bird or was she performing a task? The computer and the algorithm were performing a task. The equipment didn’t have the need to create, it was responding to a programmer.
I just wonder if there can be any original art from AI (artificial intelligence). It seems to me the originality and the creativity of a piece of art is the pull or the reason for the response from the viewer. It is the originality and the creativity that produces the strand that connects the artwork to the viewer.
What do you think? What do you consider art? Something that is aesthetically pleasing to your eye? Or the representation of a concept or idea? Do you think that we need art in this world? Does art need to be viewed in order to be considered art? Do you think artificial intelligence can produce a work of art?
While I think the “portrait” is interesting, I do think that only humans can conceive and produce a creative work. For me, there is something “alive” in paintings by humans: the creative you speaks to the creative me. What a blessing to be able to see, think and discuss the creative arts.