When Jason Allen presented his work at the annual Colorado State Fair art competition, he hoped to make a splash. But he could not foresee that his work Space Opera Theater, which won the blue ribbon in the digital art category, would cause a stir. Allen’s artwork, which was created using the AI image generator Midjourney, sparked fierce debate about the role of artists and the use of AI in fine art.
Allen, who owns a gaming company, proudly wrote about his win on Midjourney Discord. Midjourney creates images based on text prompts, and Allen explained that he spent 80 hours and created 900 images before zeroing in on the perfect combination. This result is Space Opera Theaterwhich he printed on canvas and fell into the category of digital art, stating that it was created using Midjourney.
His post was quickly picked up by Twitter, where artists took offense that an AI-generated artwork could win an art contest. “We are witnessing the death of art unfolding before our eyes – if creative jobs are not machine-proof, then even highly skilled jobs risk becoming obsolete,” tweeted @OmniMorpho. “What shall we have then?” »
For his part, Allen knew his victory would ruffle some feathers, but he also hoped it would spark conversation. “How interesting how all these 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? he wrote on Discord.
TL; DR — Someone entered an art contest with an AI-generated work and won first prize.
Yeah that’s really shitty. pic.twitter.com/vjn1IdJcsL
— Genel Jumalon ✈️ ARTapalooza Cedar Falls (@GenelJumalon) August 30, 2022
One question that worried several people was whether or not the judges understood that the artwork was generated using AI. This is a similar problem that has troubled many AI ethicists. While Allen said he disclosed the program he used to create his winning entry, at least one judge told reporters they had no idea AI was used.
Author and art historian Dagny McKinley, a judge in the category, was immediately drawn to the otherworldly image of three women dressed in historic clothing standing near what looks like a bright moon. “There was an immediate story: people staring into another world, everyone turning their back on you, no one facing or engaging with the viewers,” she said. “You are interested: what do they see?
Although McKinley confessed that she didn’t know Midjourney was an AI image generator, she said it wouldn’t have changed her vote anyway. For her, it was Allen’s concept and vision that won him the top prize, not whether or not he used a digital brush or created a Photoshop collage.
In some ways, this debate between soundness of idea versus technical execution is not new. Throughout the Italian Renaissance, scholars debated whether it was the idea or who actually painted the canvas that mattered. Allen’s victory is a contemporary version of this same debate.
For Allen, who didn’t break any contest rules, what matters are the hours of meticulous curation and polish he spent creating the image. For others, his victory is an affront to human artists who manually create every part of their art. No matter which side of the debate you fall on, it’s impossible not to see that AI is here to stay. In fact, My Modern Met often features art projects that use AI. Therefore, these conversations are an essential part of making the public aware that computer-generated documents are everywhere, even in places they might not expect.
When Jason Allen’s AI-generated image won the annual Colorado State Fair art competition, it sparked debate online.
For the record, I think AI can be a useful tool for artists. The problem I have to solve is that someone is taking all the credit and in this case not properly informing the judges what Midjourney is.
In the future, AI art should have its own category. pic.twitter.com/6qBzVkfeey
— Genel Jumalon ✈️ ARTapalooza Cedar Falls (@GenelJumalon) September 1, 2022
Some were outraged that the image, which was created using the AI Midjourney image generator, won.
Something done with literally zero skill or effort shouldn’t be rewarded with actually thoughtful work.
— 🍂🍁M1KE (school break) (@M1KE_504) August 31, 2022
It sucks for the same reason we don’t let robots compete in the Olympics.
— fluxophile (@fluxophile) August 30, 2022
And many worried about what this meant for the future of artists.
The biggest problem is that (presumably) the judges didn’t realize it was an AI and still thought it was good enough to win. This doesn’t bode well for the ‘human versus AI’ illustration discussion.
— Seth Rutledge BLM/TLM — End Russian Tyranny (@eldritch48) August 30, 2022
We are witnessing the death of art unfolding before our eyes – if creative jobs are not machine-proof, then even highly skilled jobs risk becoming obsolete
What will we have then?
— OmniMorpho (@OmniMorpho) August 31, 2022
At the same time, others pointed out that new technologies in art had a precedent.
People had similar concerns with photography in the 1800s. Some artists worried that it would completely replace other traditional art forms, but it didn’t. Like photography, AI is just a new tool/medium that can be used for artistic creation. It has its pros and cons like all art forms.
— Sienna Laine (@PaintandSipYT) August 31, 2022
But are we? Or are we witnessing the emergence of a new genre? These negative reactions are the same as those thought towards Cubism and Impressionism. I think these AI-created pieces are amazing.
— Your mom uses Tinder (@Urmomusestinder) September 2, 2022
And some felt that good AI illustrations still require creativity.
The guy in his discord post says it took him a long time. It’s not like he just typed a thing and submitted it. Plus, in any case, what’s wrong if people without artistic skills can now create the art they envision in their heads. This is a good thing
— Just Chris (@TheChris_Dude) August 31, 2022
The art is in the idea you want to convey, not in the skill of drawing a fancy image. An artist has to come up with new ideas (something an AI probably isn’t capable of). Anyway, imagine what horse breeders were thinking when cars were invented (the world didn’t end, by the way).
— Vali Draganescu (@VFDraganescu) September 2, 2022
No matter what you agree with, it’s hard to deny that AI is here to stay.
h/t: [NYTimes, Vice]
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