At the ‘Colorado State Fair’s Fine Art Competition,’ a work took 1st place in the “Digital Category” on September 3 of 2022. However, this work has been faced with great controversy. This is because it is a work drawn by Artificial Intelligence (AI). The name of the award-winning work is "Space Opera Theater," and it was made by a method that combines the atmosphere of renaissance paintings and steampunk (It refers to a work drawn by imagining the introduction of technology in the 21st century in the background of the British Industrial Revolution when steam locomotives were introduced). Award winner Jason Allen is a game designer who runs a company called Incarnate Games. Jason Allen didn’t draw the picture himself but produced it using an AI image generation program called Midjourney. After seeing this, digital artist Jenel Humalon and several artists criticized the result strongly, saying, "It's like a robot participating in the Olympics,” but the judges of the competition said, “We have no intention of changing the decision."
These days, AI image generation programs such as Midjourney, Imagen, and DALL-E2 continue to emerge. Midjourney, used by Jason Allen, is a program in which AI produces several images in a short time when you enter some texts.
Controversy arose over Jason Allen’s “Space Opera Theater” as to whether this new way of painting which brought an amazing result is really art or not. Let's look at the pros and cons of this opinion.
AI Creates a New Path to Art.
I think that the work created by AI is also art. In my opinion, art is not just drawing pictures, but expressing the artist’s spirit and ideals. Here, in this AI-generated painting, AI alone does not freely complete the painting, but it envisions the picture under human command. In this process, various pre-drawn pictures appear. And second, the artist chooses the picture that he wants according to his intention. In this process, various pre-drawn pictures apprear on the screen and the artist by repeating this process and gradually narrowing the width, the finished work comes out. Taking into consideration the process that a work is created in this way, I think that AI-generated painting is an art that fully contains human intentions and one's own beliefs.
Marcel Duchamp, who became a major pillar of modern art, saw art as a spiritual thing and developed a new art form called ‘Ready-made.’ Ready-mades pioneered a new level of art created with pure imagination rather than tangible results. Among these types of works, there is a work called ‘Fountain.’ The artist wrote his signature on a urinal which can be purchased on the market and submitted it to an exhibition. As you can see from these works, in modern art, if the artist's spirit is embedded in the art, even works without the artist's direct effort are commonly used.
Like Duchamp, who valued the composition of the work rather than the finished work, I think the art which is generated by AI is not an invasion of the territory and capacity of humans. Rather, since every process which AI participates in when creating a work of art is conducted under human commands, AI-generated art is to be said as a new genre.
AI is Leading Art to Death.
I don't think the award-winning work generated by AL cannot be accepted as art. Art is not only a technology that tries to express universal through a subjective being, but also an intellectual activity. AI is manipulated by humans, but intelligence and thoughts as humans do are not involved in the process. Therefore, AI-generated works of art cannot be accepted as art now that they are made by mechanical learning, not by the elements such as originality, individuality, and sensitivity. Plus, there still remains a legal problem, which is a matter of copyright.
The Copyright Act stipulates the definition of a work as 'a creation that expresses human thoughts or emotions' (Article 2 of the Copyright Act). Due to this Act, the result of AI’s creative activities cannot be considered an artwork. AI itself searches and learns various materials on the Internet. While painting using the materials drawn by others online, it is very difficult for the artist to judge whether he or she has violated the copyright law or not. In fact, in early February of 2022, the U.S. Copyright Office rejected Steve Taylor's request to copyright his works of art created by AI. Even if such works are recognized as an art, there still remains an issue of who should be the copyright holder: the creator, or the user, or the educator of the AI program. I think the creativity of an artist is important when doing art. And I think that the ability to convey and express is also included in the artist's creativity. AI can be used as a tool such as a brush or a pencil, but I think even the process of expressing and practicing by hand goes into creativity. Also, as mentioned above, AI draws in the form of learning and utilizing existing images when making art.
This means AI-generated art is like weaving using state-of-the art technology. I think it is too early to recognize AI's paintings as art at a time when copyright laws related to AI have not been accurately set.