A.I. Art Is Art, But It’s Not Made By Artists
Before we begin, I just want to apologize for not being active on Medium over the past two months. Real life has caused me to lose certain motivators, and that has resulted in me basically forgetting all about Medium when I want to write something. With that said, just because I’m not on Medium, that doesn’t mean I’m not writing. I’m still plenty active on Twitter, I have a YouTube channel that just hit 250 subscribers, and I recently got a tumblr that I use to talk about internet drama. For that matter, I recently opened a public Discord server for anybody who wants to contact me directly.
Now, on with the article.
This article is dedicated to a fellow named Sunhail, who tweeted the following on 9/29/2022:
There’s no doubt in my mind that making AI art is real art. I spent about 1.5 hours tweaking things to produce these visuals. The hair, perfect red lipstick color, focus, eyes, wrinkles, theme, reflections, clothes. It was a joy to achieve a result I couldn’t have previously.
For reference on just how short of a time an hour and a half actually is, I tend to edit ten minutes of a video I’m working on a day — that takes me about two to three hours.
This tweet was in response to various people calling images generated through artificial intelligence not art. In general, the debate over what does and does not count as art is a very long and complicated one where reasonable minds can come to various conclusions. The late and famous film critic Roger Ebert constantly got into controversy for firming believing that video games cannot be a form of art. This triggered a debate that a full decade— although it seems to have mostly died down as of 2022 — and one that Ebert himself later said he regretted starting.
If you want my opinion on this debate, it’s rather simple: If cave paintings and Venus statues count as art, then I think would be very arbitrary to exclude video games as art. Whenever I see somebody attempt to argue video games aren’t art, it usually involves changing the definition of “art” from a strictly materialist one to a semi-spiritual one. Art goes from being a medium used to create to some nebulous concept of human self-expression — as if you can create anything without some form of self-expression. (Fuck, these blog posts see me expressing my opinions on whatever’s on my mind — under this definition they’re closer to art than the average video game.)
I understand I’m speaking in generalities more often than normal — and trust me, I don’t like that fact — but this is a very broad debate with people who tend to be hard to pin. Especially given, as a twitter user with the handle @TRANZSMENACE points out, many of the people who are currently calling artificial intelligence generated images art have argued that many things aren’t art:
Like how non-artists switched up from telling us that drawing digitally is cheating because “computers do all the work”, to straight up typing words into a program that does literally everything for them & calling it art.
Yeah, that’s another debate I haven’t gotten into — although, like with video games, it’s mostly dead at this point — but many people consider works created digitally to not be real art. Whenever I ask somebody with this opinion why they hold it, the argument usually comes down “computers do all the work for you.” (This is a mindset that was beautifully mocked by this video, which I highly recommend.) They seem to be under the impression that one can open Microsoft Paint and it will independently create some masterpiece.
To speak personally, I recently attempted to make digital art — and it looks like shit because it’s a stick figure that I drew in three minutes. Despite the fact that I used something that many people say takes neither skill nor effort to make something good in, when I actually tried to make something without skill nor effort I fell flat on my face.
I should also note that while many people argue that digital art and video games aren’t actually art, what is non-controversial called art is often much more ridiculous. Back in 2019, a piece of art consisting of a banana being duct-taped to a wall sold for $120,000. Other things that nobody has argued aren’t art to my knowledge include a urinal with a signature, a fully functional toilet made of gold called “America,” a statue of Jesus Christ being put in a jar of urine, and red paint on a mirror.
Everything except for the urinal is typically considered to be “modern art,” which — in my opinion — is the most misused term of our time. To me, “modern art” should be the genuinely well made and creative works average people upload to the internet. The beautiful images I find when I look at the front page of the website DeviantArt is what should be placed in these “modern art” museums, not things that get mistaken for trash. I know some people will scoff at the notion that the character reference sheet some fifteen year old makes for their original furry character should be even considered worthy of being placed in a museum — but then I ask you to remember what’s already put in museums before pointing out that if we’re going to put kind of silly stuff in them, it should at least be good.
So does AI generated art fall more along the lines of digital art or the guy who soaked Jesus Christ in urine? In my mind, I do think that AI generated art can be considered art — and I’m sure that somebody who’s especially smart and talented can make something amazing with it. However, I do not consider the people who use it to create images to be artists.
In order for somebody to be an artist, they have to be the personal behind a piece of art. In the case of AI based art, you are simply telling a program what to do. If I ask an artist to make a piece of art for me and they do so, that doesn’t make me the artist. The actual artist in the case of AI generated art is the artificial intelligence used to make it.