When artificial intelligence puts art in danger

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InnovationWhen artificial intelligence puts art in danger

Two amazingly efficient software programs, one dedicated to the visual arts, the other to writing, Midjourney and ChatGPT, could soon put artists out of work.

The painting “Théâtre d’Opéra Spatial” won the digital work prize

Jason Allen

Last September, a small revolution had put the whole geek planet in turmoil. In Colorado, a painting designed in minutes by artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, based on a few simple keywords, won first prize in a contest under the nose of others artists, themselves quite legitimate.

Three short months later, this event looks like a pleasant drop in the ocean compared to the AIs that are invading all artistic fields today. Not only painting but also photography, cinema, literature… There are now comics entirely generated by algorithms; cliches, glaringly true, but illustrating scenes that never existed; or film scripts and children’s stories designed by machines…

“I wonder if in a few years there will still be enough room for human artistic creation”, worries a certain Frank Meinl on Twitter. While j86 is already betting on a Netflix, in 2050, able to instantly create a movie based on subscriber preferences…

Endless Possibilities

In the meantime, in the field of graphic art, it’s Midjourney (with its recent V4), which is currently working miracles. Boosted with artificial intelligence, the tool is able to generate images from text. Just specify an idea through a few keywords (we call that writing a “prompt”) – “cemetery, night, fantastic atmosphere”, or “dragon attacking a knight on the edge of a cliff” – and in a few minutes , the program creates from scratch a series of illustrations inspired by thousands of other images on the same theme(s). And unlike other software like Dall-E, this one does not aim for realism but is precisely trained to take care of an artistic rendering, with very particular attention, often quite impressive, paid to the composition of colors and light. . We can even ask him to draw inspiration from specific artists – John Howe, Jérôme Bosch, Gustav Klimt –, to create a show poster or to ask him to simulate a cinematographic rendering (choice of lenses included) in the manner of Pedro Almodóvar or Hayao Miyazaki. The possibilities seem endless…

The Haute École d’Art et de Design de Genève (HEAD) has not waited to take the subject head on, and this program in particular for a few months. “We organize workshops and various projects managed by teachers specialized in the subject, explains Anthony Masure, head of research at HEAD (HES-SO). It’s quite unique. In France, for example, it does not exist at all. We debate these new techniques, we dissect them, we deconstruct them, we divert them… It’s a real field of exploration”.

And copyright in all this?

But all this obviously raises thorny issues, such as copyright. “The paradox, with Midjourney, continues Anthony Masure, is that by paying the license – 30 francs per month –, we find ourselves the owner of works generated from something that does not belong to us. There is a real danger. This is something that currently occupies a lot of lawyers and while waiting for this to be decided, some artists have already requested that their works be removed from these databases, such as the designer Philippe Starck”.

Last August, Steve Coulson, creative director of an American transmedia agency, published his first comic entirely designed with Midjourney, “Summer Island”. Many voices were then raised to denounce his practice, evoking counterfeiting, plagiarism or even outright theft. The artist himself admitted not being very comfortable with this process: “I felt guilty capitalizing on the portfolio of other artists”, he explained to the site L’ADN, without however naming those of whom he was inspired. He then had the idea of ​​combining Midjourney with another program, Stable Diffusion, to “train” the latter in its own style. Since then he has created four other comics, all available for free on his site.

The ChatGPT Phenomenon

It is also by combining these two softwares that the artist Wetterschneider generates fake photos of SF nanars. A bit as if a set photographer had been dispatched to the set of a “Star Wars” film directed in the 1970s by Alejandro Jodorowsky, the crazy Franco-Chilean director of “El Topo” or “Santa Sangre”. Clichés that let you imagine crazy films that will remain forever fantasized.

Next to that, the first feature film written by an artificial intelligence, “The Diary of Sisyphus”, is expected for next year. It is Italian, directed by a certain Mateusz Miroslaw Lis, and will mix human drama and initiatory journey. Little information has yet filtered on its writing process but we already know that its design belongs to the past. Released just a few days ago, the new version of the ChatGPT software, developed by the OpenAI company, continues to amaze the entire planet. Hold a conversation, write poems, a political speech or rap battles (rhymes and humor included), generate a complete film script with a detailed description of the characters and key settings of the story, but also formulate a opinion on a subject requiring nuanced thinking… He seems capable of anything. “I just had a 20 minute conversation with ChatCPT about the history of modern physics,” physicist Peter Wang tweeted. If only I had this thing as a teacher during my high school… OMG. I believe that we can now sincerely reinvent the whole concept of education”.

When everything seems possible…

And Internet users have fun like crazy with the possibilities offered by the software: “Write a fantastic tale with Madame de Pompadour, Guy Lux and Jack The Ripper,” suggests a certain George Kaplan, still on Twitter. And the worst part is that it holds up…

Now it remains to be seen whether all this becomes art? According to Steve Coulson, “Composing a ‘prompt’ is almost like writing a haiku and seeing it come to life.” For him, that would be the artistic part: synthesizing his thoughts and defining the essential elements for the elaboration of a work before letting the machine do the work. A bit like a director busy with the pre-production of his film and who would give directions to his various artistic teams, in a way. Why not…

What about the future

Anthony Masure compares the phenomenon rather to the arrival of photography and cinema. “I don’t see a fundamental difference. For photography and cinema to become an art, people had to do something other than the simple reproduction for which they were originally intended. Today, we are there with Midjourney: in its infancy. Afterwards, will this process really become an art? It’s not win…”.

But then what about the future of artists now, if machines are already beginning today to design such convincing works? “The repercussions will be enormous on our daily lives, because these artificial intelligences affect all layers of society: fashion, architecture, politics, medicine, video games… But I believe that the whole point of these algorithms will reside in their association with an artist: a collaboration between human and machine. Without that, all the works will end up looking the same. And in the future, I see this type of software becoming a full member of a team of designers, to whom we would entrust the exploration of certain creative avenues or certain repetitive tasks…”.

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When artificial intelligence puts art in danger


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