If you Google the definition of art, what you get is, “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” Already, the definition of art involves the word human. However, people have long challenged this definition by demonstrating that animals like elephants and primates can also produce artworks.
So, if animals can create art, does that mean artificial intelligence-made art counts as art too?
How art is challenging tradition
Modern art arose from artists challenging traditional notions of art in the name of experimentation. For centuries it seemed that paintings and sculptures in museums were what defined art. However, contemporary artists started using different mediums to demonstrate that they can express emotions and creativity in other ways. For example, Damien Hirst exhibited the preserved carcasses of various animals in formaldehyde tanks. Maurizio Cattelan infamously duct-taped a banana to a wall it sold for $120,000.
Many people doubted whether these pieces were even art at all, and all this retrospection and debate was the primary goal of modern art – to make people question what art is and what it means in current society.
AI and creativity
AI has penetrated the art world in various ways. First, you have artists who use AI to create artworks. Similar to a human in the loop system, the artist would feed the AI with various data and program it to use that visual data to create something new. For example, artist Refik Anadol provided an AI 10 million photos of New York City and let the machine create dynamic landscapes based on these images. Another way AI is inserting itself into the art scene is through Ai-Da, a humanoid AI robot specifically designed to make art. Ai-Da uses built-in cameras to look around and gain inspiration for its paintings, often creating self-portraits or abstract art.
There is debate on how much credit the human should take when AI generates the artwork in either case. Similar to when animals were painting, the art was credited to the animals and not their caretakers. Alternatively, people are viewing AI more as a medium instead of the artist. The artist did most, if not all, of the conceptualization. The AI was simply a means to achieve the desired end.
The rebellion against traditional art was a movement popularized to fight back against the growing elitism in the art world. For a long time, only the rich, powerful, and influential could dictate whether a piece was good or not or whether it even counted as art or not. By challenging the notion of art, they brought about new mediums and encouraged more creativity. AI-generated art is only one of the many ways artists of this generation are fighting back against preconceived notions in art. We also see an era in art where you no longer need to visit a museum to appreciate art. Social media and the digitization of art means there is growing access to art for everyone.