AI Art


My views on AI have changed somewhat, from my initial view that AI lacked the creativity to come up with grand strategies,[stderr] to something more confused. [stderr] Initially, I saw military strategy as a problem of creativity, and AI don’t seem to be very good at that – there’s too much of “output resembles input” for me to be enthusiastic about AI art: it looks more like remixing than innovation.  [By a coincidence, Caine over at Affinity is also posting about AI creativity tonight]

This is a fun example of what I’m talking about: AI repaints. You can train an AI to a “style” (whatever that is) and have it emulate the style with a certain probability. I suppose that eventually the inputs and decision layers will become so complex that we no longer understand them, and then we’ll call it an “artist.” I’ve met people who claim that Jackson Pollock’s art has a deeper hidden meaning but I think the deeper hidden meaning is that people seek hidden meanings.

Please allow me to introduce you to Chris Rodley [rodley]

Chris Rodley

Rodley created this by re-rendering a picture of dinosaurs using a style-set of fruits. Very clever!

I don’t want to get into the “what is art?” debate because, for me, it just devolves to linguistic nihilism (I deny the word has any useful meaning) but where was the creative moment here? In my opinion, it was when Rodley had the idea of training neural nets with fruits and trees. I suppose that places me soundly in the same place as Marcel Duchamp: art is the expression of a creative moment.

I wish he’d posted a larger version but I know why he hasn’t – there’d be posters of this for sale online, right away. I can’t see the detail of the lettering but it appears that the AI has done some form of obscure languagifying. It makes me want to grab a zillion images of Chinese and Japanese calligraphy and train up a neural network with them, then make a twitter-bot that turns quotes into fake wall scrolls.

Was I just creative?

I was just re-mixing other people’s ideas; my re-mixer just works a bit harder and is more aggressive about pulling in other things, that’s all. I was thinking of wall scrolls because I just sent an Email to my master calligrapher friend asking about a commission. It was in the foreground of my mind; nothing fancy.

Rodley’s page on dinosaurs and flowers is [here] including some of the technical details for making your own.

He also links to a “magic realism bot” on twitter, that apparently spits out … what? Are they stories? [twitter]

Someone once said of Cartier-Bresson that his “decisive moment” was not in his photos but rather when he chose which photo to use, from the contact sheets. So, by choosing one of the magic realism bot’s tweets, have I chosen one I find more creative an interesting? Am I further refining its creativity with my own?

I have to admit this sort of thing inspires me. But at what point does the artist become involved?

Steve Ciarcia, who used to write the Circuit Cellar electronics magazine, had a famous tag-line that “My favorite programming language is solder.” A number of years ago I was at a conference talking with someone and said “Steve Ciarcia used to say ‘my favorite programming language is solder,” well, my favorite programming language is people.” Dan Geer was passing by and overheard me, ducked into the conversation and said, “my favorite programming language is capital” and sauntered off.

Deep Muppet

Comments

  1. says

    I think the deeper hidden meaning is that people seek hidden meanings.

    Yes, yes, and yes. Nothing invites pretension quite like art does. Most ‘AI’ um, I’ll go with craft here, bores me silly. It can be all kinds of fun to play with, but in the end, boring.

    The fruit dinosaurs remind me of old tea towel patterns (embroidery), when you could find the silliest of things, animals of all kinds doing whatever; vegetables having a ball dance, and so on. Basically, it comes across as cute and kitsch, immediately aged out.

    As for the languagifying, well, there’s nothing new and all that. Asemic writing has you covered, although it’s an art style a lot of people have never heard of or seen. I will say that if you want a particular art form that is extra-special inviting to those prone to pretentious bullshit, it’s asemic writing. It’s kind of what would happen if philosophy were art.

    If I had a fave programming language, it would be people, same as you. Because at the end of the day, this isn’t AI creating art. It’s people playing at pretending AI is creating art.

  2. says

    Caine@#2:
    I was reading this a while back, and thought of you: Frolicsome Engines: The Long Prehistory of Artificial Intelligence.

    OOooooooo… And that site looks interesting. Damn it, I have a report due tomorrow and now I have a perfect excuse to procrastinate.

  3. Dunc says

    I can’t see the detail of the lettering but it appears that the AI has done some form of obscure languagifying.

    Given the subject matter, if it were me, I’d totally want to do that using the Voynich manuscript as the training set.

  4. jazzlet says

    Mechanical Christs on the Cross seem to me to perfecty represent the nature of the Catholic version of Christianity. Also to be profoundly creepy.

  5. says

    jazzlet@#5:
    Mechanical Christs on the Cross seem to me to perfecty represent the nature of the Catholic version of Christianity. Also to be profoundly creepy.

    Now that’d be a cool training set: metal textures, rivets, bolts, wires, and such. Would you get robot versions of your subjects?

    I get excited when I see this stuff; it makes me want to go to the studio and shoot thousands of photos of marshmallows or skittles and make training sets with them.

  6. says

    Dunc@#4:
    I’d totally want to do that using the Voynich manuscript as the training set.

    … and then publish the fake and let people go crazy trying to decode it. Little did anyone realize Abdul Alhazred was a product from Google…

  7. says

    Caine@#1:
    Nothing invites pretension quite like art does. Most ‘AI’ um, I’ll go with craft here, bores me silly. It can be all kinds of fun to play with, but in the end, boring.

    I agree 100% about art being an invitation to pretension. I happen to believe that art and humor are connected (but then, I would) somehow, and that humor is a way of deflecting/coping with unpleasant things – which means that art is funny and unpleasant somewhere down in its core. That’s why pretension about art always rings false to me. It may also be why a lot of machine-generated art doesn’t do much for people: AI aren’t very funny.

  8. says

    I’m skeptical about the very existence of “creativity” in what is over 99% of everything humans made and labeled “art”. There certainly is no creativity in my art. All I do is remix the same old ideas. For every single one of my images I could make a list of all those previous artworks, which served as an “inspiration” and got remixed into something new. I remember these sources very well, which is why I’m so keenly aware of the lack of creativity in my work.

    I don’t think humans can even create anything significantly different from what has already been done before. I once attempted to make a catalogue of all the possible poses in which it is possible to display human body on 2D surface (in paintings, photographs and so on). It depends on what you call a “pose” and what gets labeled as a “variation of the same pose”, but I ended up with a couple dozen possible poses. If a “wannabe creative” artist or photographer attempted to make an image of a human being in a new pose that has never been used before, it would be impossible. Regardless of what “creative” pose the artist came up with, somebody would have already done it before.

    I learned to draw by attempting to copy other artists’ works I liked. At first my skills were so poor, that my copies didn’t look anything like originals despite my efforts. Over time my skills improved and I could do better reproductions, but since I liked works of multiple artists, I attempted to copy aspects of many different artworks and styles in each one of my single paintings. Thus I ended up with something that can be called new works rather than exact reproductions.

    Yes, the first caveman who made a painting did something new, but afterwards art has been mostly copying of what has already been done. And I don’t see anything wrong or bad with this. Paintings of sexy nude people look pretty, so artists all over the world might as well make more of those. It’s cool to live in a world full with paintings of sexy nude people. So what that they are all somewhat similar and not that creative? At least I don’t care as long as I can look at pretty pictures of sexy naked people.

    For me creativity is absolutely unimportant in an artwork. I have other criteria how I decide whether I like a particular artwork or not.

    The problem with AI generated artworks would be that the remixing that happens in human artist’s brains is pretty elaborate. For me there are literally thousands of sources that I use. So we would need some really advanced AI to reach the same level. I assume we will have that in future and then what that AI does will be no different from what a human artist does.

  9. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#9:
    I’m skeptical about the very existence of “creativity” in what is over 99% of everything humans made and labeled “art”. There certainly is no creativity in my art. All I do is remix the same old ideas.

    I agree.

    Although, I now expect someone to come along and say, “no! That is creativity!” (Sort of like how Dan Dennet comes along and says ‘hey your perception of free will – that’s your free will, so you have free will!’)

    I don’t think humans can even create anything significantly different from what has already been done before.

    I would agree to a less strong form of that. Everything is, at most, extrapolations or variants of what has been done before – because of the same problem AIs have: you can only get out of them randomized variations of what you put into them. So I can draw a space ship that has never existed and will never exist, but it’s an extrapolation from ‘ship’ and ‘space’ and now that there are people doing space ships I can extrapolate from them, etc.

    So it may not have been done before, but it’s related to or similar to something that has been done somehow before.

    Yes, the first caveman who made a painting did something new

    Not sure about even that. In Lascaux they were putting their hands on the wall and blowing pigment on them with their mouths. Cool idea (spray paint!) It’s not hard to go from ‘pigment’ and ‘wall’ and ‘hand’ to ‘smear pigment’ and from there it’s a straight path to Caravaggio)

    For me creativity is absolutely unimportant in an artwork

    Yes!
    Thank you. That really crystallizes the whole matter for me.

    I read through some of the Magic Realism Bot’s productions and one was so beautiful it nearly made me cry. The fact that it was not creative is irrelevant. Or even if it were, it’s irrelevant. It just made me feel a certain way.

  10. says

    @#1
    The fruit dinosaurs remind me of old tea towel patterns (embroidery), when you could find the silliest of things, animals of all kinds doing whatever; vegetables having a ball dance, and so on. Basically, it comes across as cute and kitsch, immediately aged out.
    Personally I like some of the artworks, which tend to get labeled with the word “kitsch”. I really dislike the way how this word gets used. The idea is that somebody who likes these artworks (like me) must have poor taste and lack artistic education, because otherwise they wouldn’t like it. Basically it’s a pejorative word used to ensure that part of human population can more easily claim that their arbitrary and subjective artistic taste is superior.

    I believe that all opinions about what is or isn’t good art are subjective. If everybody’s taste was the same as mine, “modern art” rather than “kitsch” would be a word with pejorative and derogatory meaning (I happen to dislike most of modern art). But other people clearly disagree with me and have different taste. For this reason it is better to agree to disagree and not use any pejorative words like “kitsch”. Saying “I don’t like this artwork, because it looks aged out” is fine. Each person is free to have an opinion. Saying “this artwork is bad, because it comes across as kitsch” is not fine. Your aesthetic opinion is only yours and others are free to disagree. And using derogatory words to somehow turn your aesthetic opinion into a fact is not nice.

    It’s people playing at pretending AI is creating art.

    I fail to see the big difference between “art” created by a human artists and “art” created by AI. Why is the latter not art?

    By the way, years ago as a young artist I used to believe that it is possible to objectively determine which artworks are good art and which ones are bad. Or that it’s possible to tell what is or isn’t “art”. It didn’t take me long to give up on that illusion. Even an introductory course in aesthetics and the philosophy of art will be enough to shatter such beliefs. We started with Ancient Greek ideas and by the time we got till Kant and Arno Holz I had already given up any hopes for people to ever reach any consensus about this topic. And it got only worse once I started reading 20th century philosophers’ opinions about this topic. Over the millennia philosophers and artists couldn’t even agree about the basic criteria we should use for determining what is or isn’t art.

  11. says

    So it may not have been done before, but it’s related to or similar to something that has been done somehow before.

    Well, that’s what I meant with “significantly different”. Of course people can come up with new ideas, which are somewhat different, but not significantly different.

    Cave paintings look very different than Caravaggio, which in turn looks very different than 3D art of space ships done on a computer. Those are what I could call “significant” differences. But that wasn’t the result of a single very creative artist. New significantly different styles of art are born over decades/centuries with each single artist making a minor contribution. I could say that art changes just like technology. An ancient wooden ship is very different than a metal space ship, but it wasn’t a single engineer who invented the latter. It was millennia worth of steady progress where countless people contributed. For this reason I don’t expect much creativity from a single artist.

  12. anat says

    Marcus @10: I actually have a book somewhere about how to be more creative, and it starts with a lot of quotes about how creativity is basically the remixing of existing stuff, though it is more creative if the things you are mixing come from different areas. Of course it was written by a person who had a career in marketing so I guess that explains everything.

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