First AI gallery curator: “AI is an enemy, but we have to love it”
While the debate about generative artificial intelligence (AI) boils among artists, a gallery owner in Amsterdam has embraced AI art in a creative way to open what is claimed to be the world’s first AI gallery.
Generative AI has been a controversial topic, as it threatens to wipe out what are essentially human–creative capacities. From ChatGPT writing poems to DALL-E or Midjourney creating visual masterpieces – it feels that technological advancement might be pushing human artists into an existential crisis.
Unsurprisingly, many creatives are pushing back against a future where machines dominate the creative landscape. The disputes begin with the dilemma of giving credit to the artists whose work was used to train generative AI. While pro-profit tech companies are scraping the data for free, artists are left without their share.
Still, the most intense question on the table is: will artists be needed at all if AI can master the craft? Recently, thousands of film and TV writers went on strike. Apart from regular demands for higher pay, the writer’s union also expressed the wish to restrict the use of AI.
Using the hashtag “No to AI Art,” visual artists rose up on social media to fight against AI image generators. In the legal arena, three image generation tools – Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, and DreamUp – were sued over the unauthorized use of billions of images to train AI. Stock image platform Getty Images filed its own lawsuit against Stability AI, claiming the company had ‘unlawfully’ scraped millions of images from its site.
So, does this suggest that AI and blood-and-flesh artists are really irreconcilable enemies? Constant Brinkman, a curator at the ‘Dead End’ AI gallery, thinks differently. With a background in programming and data science, Brinkman has created digital art for the last 30 years. We sit down with him to discuss his art and the AI’s role in art creation.
AI created artists
While the gallery's name may seem like a self-fulfilling prophecy in the AI art debate, its meaning is way more straightforward: the gallery is located on a narrow dead-end street in central Amsterdam.
At first glimpse, the gallery does not differ from other galleries – the space represents artists and their work.
“Irisa Nova, born on June 25th, 1993, is a talented artist based in the vibrant city of Artisia. With a favorite artistic style rooted in abstract expressionism, she possesses a deep passion for capturing emotions and ideas through vibrant colors and dynamic compositions,” reads the biography card of one of the artists.
However, at a closer look, it becomes obvious that a machine has created all the artists. “Our interest was to create art pieces with the aid of AI. In a way that AI is telling us how the art should look. So that's why we invented these artists,” explained Brinkman.
Using up to 100 AI tools in one week, the team created outlines of 10 artists' personas. The creators communicated with the artists daily for an entire month, finally encouraging them to create their artwork in a specific style for that artist.
“For example, we can ask questions like how are your parents doing, as they live in the same street. How is the water, as she lives on the coastline? Some information comes out of that. Sometimes the AI tells us, ‘I don't have any feelings’. I say, no, please act like Irisa Nova, and then it switches over to Nova, and then she talks with us,” the curator illustrates the process of talking to AI.
As we speak, ambient music fills the gallery space. “The music you hear is also AI-generated,” smiles the curator.
The idea to launch a fully AI-generated gallery came after mainstream galleries refused to host an exhibition of AI artwork.
“They all said they love the work but didn't want to show it because they were afraid that their own artists would be angry with this,” explained the curator, “We thought, let's do our own gallery. We didn't know how, so we asked AI: How do you start a gallery? What do you need to have, really? And AI answered.”
While creating the gallery concept, Brinkman consulted AI on various questions, starting from the lighting and the color of the walls to even the legal procedures of founding an organization.
The curator says that he consults the machine to determine the price of the artworks, how many editions to produce, and who to sell the image to.
Ethical debate and opportunities to artists
In the light of the ethical debate, Brinkman stays calm. “Artists should embrace AI, not fight it. There's so much to explore,” he believes.
Although the gallery has received angry emails from fellow artists accusing him of 'stealing their work,' the curator has confirmed that all the artwork in the gallery has been backtracked to ensure that it does not resemble anything that has already been created. “We have a whole concept which goes beyond just creating a painting out of other paintings,” told Brinkman.
Brinkman raises the question of authorship and artistic influence. He assures that artists throughout history were influenced by generations of other artists, that’s how the art movements were born. That’s the natural process of creativity – to reproduce the input that one gets. There are parallels with how AI uses the data to create new artwork.
“We started this gallery for artists to come and have a discussion and speak with visitors. That's very important because I think we should be very afraid of AI. But you have to love your friends, but you have to love your enemies even more. You need to know what they're up to,”jokes Brinkman.
He thinks it is crucial to demonstrate the possibilities of AI, as many are afraid of the technology without knowing what it is and what it can do. “We give them an opportunity to see, look, this is what can come out of the machine. Really beautiful artwork,” says the curator.
The curator believes that AI technology should be controlled more to ensure everything goes smoothly and human touch in artisanry will be around for a while.
“We always need to be aware of what the AI has generated, and we need to control that to prevent things from going wrong,” he concluded.
“I think it's really important that we keep learning and keep adapting.”
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