In answering this question, you can explore in depth and start to consider the very nature of what it means to be human, machine or AI. What is an artist, what is art and how is it created? What is consciousness?
In the future, will we become both machine and biological beings? Are we already part cyborg connected to a digital network via our devices. Will one win over the other in some dystopian Terminator-type scenario where the machines directed by AI dominate and subjugate humankind?
Are we already living in a simulation which statistical mathematics show is the most probable scenario for our current existence? Or will AI help to advance human exploration by downloading a combination of our consciousness and AI into an intergalactic robot able to explore new worlds our human physiology could not survive? How much will AI become part of our evolution and is it inevitable?
So often art and artists are at the forefront of such disturbing questions.
Tobias Gutmann, a Swiss artist currently showing at Underdogs Gallery (Lisbon) with his solo exhibition entitled “I can do that too!” Says the AI, assimilates AI into his artwork with Sai Bot, a robot that produces portraits in real time inputted with thousands of drawings Tobias created himself since 2012.
The result is quite elegant. Beautifully minimal, the artwork produced by the AI works in the stylistic language of the artist but creates unique variations.
Gabriel Abrantes, currently showing in the great space of Francisco Fino Gallery (Lisbon), works by intermeshing AI and digital technologies with art.
The representational ghosts depicted in his work is the artist as a digital avatar, possibly representing the artist as extinct, obsolete and just a memory left floating to work with AI in its creation.
His artwork fundamentally questions the fears and anxieties we may have with the future of AI and its effects on society. How many of us will lose our jobs to AI? Can AI make the artist obsolete?
Yuval Noah Harari, the popular writer and professor, surmises in his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century: “If the customer is always right then biometric algorithms stand the best chance of producing the best art in history. If art is about something deeper than human emotions, and should express a truth beyond our chemical vibrations, biometric algorithms might not make very good artists.”
I often ponder this and circle back to the following fundamental questions; is human consciousness born from simple learning, a conglomerate of biochemical reactions to an experience? Or are we, in some way, connected or even guided by a greater universal energy? Do we have souls and does artistic inspiration come from a place, directed in some way by an energy of reaction and interaction between our souls? Or does the artist, like AI, just replicate, in a novel way, all the millions of imagery that we have learnt?
Art plays a vital role in our universal connection. It is as leading AI expert and research scientist at MIT, Lex Fridman, says – art is “interactive” amongst people.
Sean Kelly, a philosopher at Harvard, specialising in existentialism and the philosophy of mind, wrote in MI Tech reviews that “AI cannot be an artist, creation will always be a human endeavour”.
Early AI developers experimented with teaching AI to learn exactly as a child, in the hopes it would become “conscious”, and thus far have failed, some would say thankfully’.
Art AI apps could potentially analyse all art and imagery uploaded to the internet and all of our reactions to it from social media. It would not take AI long to feature a piece of art based on what we would expect or prefer to see, but could it arrive at a piece of art that surprises us?
Could one program into the algorithm an anomaly, occasionally producing something original amongst many failures? Is this not the art world? Does art need to be what we want to see, or should it explore what we prefer not to and, therefore, constantly question our current perceptions and boundaries.
Charles Baudelaire, the 19th-century French poet and art critic, called photography “art’s most mortal enemy”. And yet art survived and surpassed this fear. In fact, art thrived in new directions because of the threat of photographic representation.
Three artists in the US have launched a lawsuit against Stability AI and Midjourney, creators of AI art generators Stable Diffusion and Midjourney, and artist portfolio platform DeviantArt.
The artists, Sarah Andersen, Kelly McKernan and Karla Ortiz, allege these organisations have infringed the rights of “millions of artists” by training their AI tools on five billion images scraped from the web “without the consent of the original artists”.
I am not sure that this is a realistic threat to the artist. Hollywood cinema grew from the camera obscura, now a very different genre from fine art. Creativity will just adapt and challenge us with new directions.
As an artist, I make decisions on colour, form, mark and gesture. I am not always certain where this comes from. I studied history of art and have visited hundreds of exhibitions, so I cannot deny whether or not this catalogue of imagery is, in some way, reflected in my work.
I am aware in my mark-making that something pushes me to be more aggressive or light-handed, or to place one mark near a field of colour. It sometimes can feel like it comes from somewhere else. And as many artists express, “I cannot communicate what I mean to say any better than in the artwork itself”.
Durães-West will be showing two of his works at the Algarve Art Expo, from February 10 to 12, open between 11am to 9pm at the magnificent Portimão Arena where works from over 140 artists and galleries from over 20 countries will be participating.
By Justin Durães-West
Justin Durães-West is contemporary artist and painter living and working in Portugal. His new studio, under construction in the Alentejo, is intended to be a creative space where artists, technology, digital nomads and computer programmers can live, create, work and explore.
You can find out more information about the artist and his upcoming exhibitions by visiting www.duraeswest.com