Jason Allen recently lit a fire under the art world. The Colorado-based artist used AI software to create art, submitted it to the State Fair fine arts competition, and took first prize. The event attracted widespread attention, with Allen’s work being covered in outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post, and sparking a debate on social media that, needless to say, veered from the sophisticated to the unhinged.
“Yes, it has been a crazy week with everything that is happening,” says Allen, the man in the middle of this intersection of culture and technology. “There has been a lot of love from the community but also a lot of hate, I have been receiving some hate mail.”
The hate mail is the internet being the internet, but the more cogent anti-AI art argument is that it automates a large element of the creative process, and thus should not be directly compared to art produced through traditional methods. There is also the wider argument about these AI being trained on work done by humans, though I’m not going to wade into that particular ethical quagmire here.
There are also, however, a lot of assumptions being made about what these AI tools can do, and what Allen’s creative process was. An important element to his win is that Allen credited the work to Midjourney as well as himself, being upfront about the process, and so this instantly struck me as another in the long line of stunts artists have pulled to get eyeballs on their work. It is a recurring feature in art history that half the battle for any artist is getting noticed, and complaining that Allen used software to help do that feels somewhat like railing against the ‘factory’ practices of many modern artists like Damien Hirst. Perception isn’t everything, but it sometimes can be.
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