The art and the artificial intelligence

August 10, 2022 Digital Painting

Artificial intelligences creating art raise old questions again: Is that art? And who is the artist: the machine, the programmer or the person whose data was fed into the algorithm?

Every time Berlin-based artist Roman Lipski gets to work, his assistant has already done the groundwork for him. For example, when Lipski shows him images of Californian landscapes, his assistant first describes various approaches to how the region between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific could be depicted differently. These sketches serve as inspiration for the Polish-born painter, from which he develops his own interpretations.

Best of all: Lipski’s assistant is extremely hardworking. His assistant, whom he affectionately calls “my muse,” never gets sick, never takes a vacation, never knows weekends, but works day and night without complaining about every order his boss puts on his desk. Because Lipski’s right-hand man is a machine. 

Artificial intelligence art

The artist himself speaks euphorically of a “real partnership between a painter and artificial intelligence.” Lipski discovered the advantages of artificial intelligence (AI) during a creative crisis. At that time he met IT expert Florian Dohmann of the artist initiative YQP, with whom he developed his artificial assistant.

Since then, it has been analyzing Lipski’s images, breaking them down into their component parts and putting them together in a new way. It serves the painter as an extended arm and expanded memory in one. 

Like Roman Lipski, many painters, composers and authors today rely on virtual tools. For them, machine learning (ML) is relevant simply because, like many other technologies, it enables entirely new forms of expression.

Can Compose Art But Not Music:

There are many other AIs that are artistically active. In France, a neural network, to which researchers had provided 45 Beatles songs as a database, independently composed Daddy’s Car , a song very much in the style of the band’s songwriters John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

In October 2018, Edmund de Belamy scored , an AI-generated painting, fetched a record $432,500 at auction at Christie’s auction house in New York. In Tübingen, a team led by neuroscientist Matthias Bethge developed AI software that analyzes and reproduces the works of great painters.

Today you can upload any motif to Bethge’s website and transform it into a work of art in the style of the desired grand master for €1.99. “Art is mostly about perception,” says the scientist, “that’s what makes this field so exciting for us.”

However, algorithms also have weaknesses. Many purely AI-generated creative products still seem as predictable as the kind of elevator music that sprays you between the lobby and the hallway in middle-class hotels.

The composition of AI Daddy’s Car also had to be recorded by human musicians because purely mechanical instrumentation seems too static. And Matthias Bethge also admits that his drawing program is currently “more of an art tool” than an independent artist.

Can AI really make art?

The question of whether AI can create real art is debatable, and the answer depends largely on perspective. Do you observe the author(s) of a work of art, or do you measure works of art by the effect they can create? Futurist Bernd Flessner evaluates AI art primarily with an eye to the audience.

“If a work of art says something to the recipient who is looking at a picture, listening to a piece of music or reading a book, then it is art, regardless of how it was created,” says the Erlangen-based scientist. Thus, an algorithm can be just as creative as a human being.

For neuroscientist Bethge, too, machines already meet the classical criteria for human creativity. “The modern form of AI collects experience, analyzes structures, then separates itself from the past and creates something new and surprising on this basis. A creative person does it no differently.”

Final thoughts:

While software is getting closer and closer to human artists in terms of craftsmanship, it lacks awareness of social, emotional or societal factors and thus is a very central impetus of creative work. Sociologically, it is a cross between a blind mirror and a professional idiot. For as impressive as her ability to push every digitized discipline to its limits in a short time seems, she is equally naive about everything that happens on the left and on the right. 

AI turns out to be a crack in the door through which light falls on our human concept of art. Because the question of who really created a hit, a painting or a blockbuster also applies to human artists. And so AI-generated or AI-assisted art is relevant simply because it raises the age-old controversy of who or what an artist is in a new way. It may still be a blind mirror, but one in which we see ourselves a little better. That alone is definitely a work of art.