When it comes to creativity, is artificial intelligence a powerful new tool or an existential threat? A San Francisco gallery tackles this question in a new exhibition: “Artificial Imagination” featuring eight artists who used AI image generators to create the works on display.
Artists’ methods varied: some fed their chosen AI tool phrases to generate their entire work, while others created illustrations or sculptures based on the tool’s recommendations. The show can be seen at bitforms’ West Coast gallery through the end of the year.
From robots that create their own art to image-generating tools that mimic history’s greatest artists, AI is rapidly permeating creative spaces and generating many questions. Is it a medium or a method, a tool or a technique? And does an artist fully own his art if he did not design the technology himself? As the quality of AI art rapidly improves, these conversations have never been more timely.
“Machine learning programs, which can sometimes produce striking images from short text prompts, have progressed in a matter of months from the ‘this is a big trick’ stage to a genuine cultural disruption,” it wrote AxiosScott Rosenberg.
Bitforms focuses on “artists who are critically engaged with new technologies,” according to its website. In this exhibition, the gallery hopes to provoke discussion about AI as a tool that can “change, improve and expand creative processes”.
“I think it’s really important to show right now that this is a new medium,” says Eli Pritts, one of the artists on display AxiosIna Fried. “There are serious artists; it’s a legitimate job.”
Dan Gentile, culture editor at SF gate, is far more skeptical. “Given the questionable ethical behavior of many tech companies, it’s hard to be a tech optimist these days. This type of art show doesn’t make it any easier,” he wrote. “AI has unlimited capabilities; in this use case, it has the power to democratize the creation of art, breaking the boundaries of craft and essentially serving as a translator of the imagination. Or it could just be a bull generator.”
The DALL-E 2 image generator, which was a popular tool for the artists at this exhibition, is now quite easy to work with. The user types in a phrase—for example, “a group of teddy bears in ancient Egypt, like a crayon drawing”—and the tool spits out images.
Some of the artists on display were forthcoming about the phrases they used to create their works, while others were more reserved. Alexander Reben, who has two sculptures and a digital painting in the show, declined to reveal his fast language, calling it his “secret sauce,” according to SF port. But he shared what the AI tool gave him: instructions on how to make his sculptures. Full instructions are laid out next to his work.
August Kamp, who has two works in the show, is ready to share her tips. One of them was something like “astronaut experiencing heartbreak on another planet”.
“I love the idea that my art is not owned. I love the idea that if someone sees my work and thinks, I’m going to love this style, but for this idea of mine – take it,” she says SF port. “That’s my whole attraction to this type of technology.”
“Artificial Imagination” is on display at the bitforms gallery until December 29.