The Transformative Intersection of Art and AI

 The Transformative Intersection of Art and AI

Although artificial intelligent technologies, which have brought about one of the most significant turning points in human history, have rapidly entered daily life with the spread of Generative AI applications, they have actually been rapidly changing all creative practices, from design to music for a long time. So much so that a category called ‘Artificial Intelligence art’ has emerged in the art literature. As both artists and audiences discuss how AI will impact the arts industry, some are techno-optimistic, while others are techno-pessimistic.

We discussed the transformative relationship between artificial intelligence and art with philosopher and art historian Pelin Dilara Çolak, who frequently explores the effects of AI in her research. Widely recognized in Turkey for her philosophical work and with over half a million followers, Çolak is also a PhD candidate specializing in the philosophy of mind at King’s College London.

What do you think about the quality of artworks created by artificial intelligence? Can AI create a work of art?

To discuss the relationship between AI and art, we need to make several distinctions. First, we must differentiate between works by artists who use AI as a tool and those produced entirely by AI platforms such as Midjourney or Dall-E. Secondly, if we want to discuss the artistry of AI-produced works beyond their instrumental use by artists, we must first define a clear framework for what we call art.

For instance, consider Carl Andre’s work “Equivalent VIII,” where ordinary bricks become a work of art in an art space. This raises the question of what factors transform an ordinary object into a piece of art. Answering this can shed light on how we evaluate AI productions.

Certain elements make something a work of art, including its recognition by the art world, which is known as the “institutional theory” of art. According to this theory, art is defined and valued by a group of people. The criteria used by this group to decide what constitutes art is crucial in this context.

If we look at the millennia-old art history, we see that the works have different types, forms, and themes. From painting to music, architecture to poetry, what common feature can encompass all the works produced to date and those that will be produced in the future?

Every work of art is inherently imaginative. Take, for example, John Cage’s performance “4’33”, where he sits at the piano and does nothing for 4 minutes and 33 seconds, framing a period of time to present it to us. This performance emphasizes that creating art requires a subject, an artist who shapes it with the intention of creating a work of art. Therefore, the conscious intervention of the artist with intention is indispensable. This may seem absurd, but fundamentally, art is something that the artist does, and this involves not just the physical entity but the created meaning as well.

The question should shift from “Can artificial intelligence produce a work of art?” to “Can artificial intelligence be an artist?”

One of the first inventors of computer programming, Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, noted in the 19th century that a properly programmed machine could produce music, but it cannot create anything original since it only performs what it is programmed to do. Although Lovelace did not speak from an art theorist’s perspective, she implicitly understood that originality and creativity are human-centric concepts tied to our search for meaning.

As the famous art theorist Arthur Danto said, “Works of art are symbolic expressions, and they embody their meanings.” Every work of art is necessarily about something, even if the subject and meaning are not identical. Therefore, art involves creating meaning through form, which requires conscious awareness and intention—something AI currently lacks, thus bringing us to the debate about artificial consciousness.

So you believe what AI produces cannot be called art and is impossible until artificial consciousness is discussed? What could be the philosophical value of these productions?

The word “art” derives from the Latin “ars,” which in turn comes from the ancient Greek “techne.” As “techne,” art had a broader meaning, encompassing human creations as opposed to natural existences. This highlights that AI, fundamentally, is an art of human invention. AI’s evolutionary emergence as a product of human material and cultural relationships suggests it may not need to produce art or be conscious. Our perspective is anthropocentric; we view these developments through a human-centered lens.

As a result, the dialogue between artificial intelligence and art opens up profound philosophical inquiries about creativity, consciousness, and the very essence of art. While AI continues to evolve and integrate into various creative domains, the debate over its role and capabilities in art is far from settled. Pelin Dilara Çolak’s insights remind us that the journey to understanding AI’s place in the art world is as complex and nuanced as art itself. The intersection of AI and art challenges our understanding of creativity, consciousness, and the essence of artistic expression.

 

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