Thought — 2 Min Read

Art From Now On

by Case Greenfield, March 29th, 2023

Thought — 2 Min Read

Art From Now On

by Case Greenfield

March 29th, 2023

Artificial Intelligence will change the practice of the artist. For good. Photography didn’t kill art. So won’t AI. But, as photography has changed art, so will AI … dramatically. More and more, from now on it will focus art on the human factor. Art from now on will be purely human.

Well known tech experts, such as Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak, recently called in an open letter to pause all development of so-called LLM’s – Large Language Models – such as ChatGPT and GPT-4.

(…) AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity. (…) Advanced AI could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth, and should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources. (…)

So, clearly, something is happening in the AI realm. Earlier, I have said that AI art is not a fundamental shift in art. Quantum art may create that shift. But, although AI may not have a dramatic impact on the artworks themselves, it will have profound consequences for the art production process. I already tended to think so earlier. And now it is happening.

Below you find a link to a small fragment on Twitter from “Rick Rubin who became a world class music producer without knowing the first thing about music”. Here’s what he says :

“I barely play an instrument. I don’t know how to work a sound board. I have no technical ability. And I know nothing about music. But … I know what I like and what I don’t like. And I am decisive about what I like and what I don’t like. So, I am being paid for the confidence that I have in my taste and my ability to express what I feel has proven helpful for artists.”

And here is another interesting example, so-called TTM or text-to-music. You simply type a text, a mood, instruments, etc, and the AI algorithm will create music for you!

It won’t take long before this functionality will be embedded in music creation tools, such as Apple’s Garage Band or Logic Pro and all the other existing (and new) tools. And these two are examples in the music creation process. Earlier, I have given other examples, such as DALL-E2 for image creation. And ChatGPT can write poems on demand. Also, there are techniques to create a 3D digital object which can then be input into a machine that creates a sculpture out of it. Fully automated. Here’s a nice reference on “Text-to-3D” algorithms.

Artistic craftsmanship less and less will play a role in the production process of your art work. Artistic creativity however will play a more and more decisive role.

Basically, this means that from now on AI will play a pivotal role in the art creation process, whatever expression of art. The fundamental consequence is that your artistic craftsmanship – in the way of the old masters, for instance – will play less and less a role in the production process of your art work. Your artistic creativity on the other hand will play a more and more decisive role.

With the rise of photography, you already saw this trend taking place in painting for example: creating expressionistic – such as Edvard Münch’s Scream – paintings, let alone abstract paintings – eg. Piet Mondriaan’s Composition with red, yellow and blue or Malevitsj’s Black Square – takes less old-fashioned painting craftsmanship than creating, let’s say, Vermeer’s Milkmaid or his Girl with pearl.

Democratization of art?

Will it be the definitive beginning of “democratization of art”? Everybody can be an artist now? Maybe. Everyone can be a photographer now, but not everyone is recognized as a world-class artistic photographer, like for instance Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz or Anton Corbijn. And, of course, there are ‘trophy wives’, of billionaires who can easily afford the best mentors and well-equipped (and staffed) workshops who run an art practice, but not all of them are recognized as world-class artists.

So, what will be the role of the artist then?

The change photography brought in the art world was that you no longer needed the handcraft skills that people like Rembrandt and Vermeer had. Everyone who can look through a lens and push a button now can make beautiful photos – even AI-enhanced nowadays with modern smartphones.

Still, not all photos have artistic quality. (Most don’t, actually.) And yet, there still are photographers who call themselves artists. They too look through a lens and push a button. But they bring something special. They bring the artistic factor, they bring the human factor. Their photos touch us in some way or the other. They create a human connection.

And isn’t that exactly what Rick Rubin said? So, what will be the role of the artist? Well, great handcraft skills in themselves will not make you a great artist. What you need is the human touch. Paraphrasing Rick Rubin:

The next generation artist knows what he likes and what doesn’t like. And he is decisive about what people like and what people don’t like. So, as an artist you need the confidence in your taste and your ability to express what you feel.

When photography was invented, people said that would be the death of art. With AI people say the same. But photography didn’t kill art. So won’t AI. But, as photography has changed art, so will AI … dramatically. More and more, from now on it will focus art on the human factor.

Art from now on will be purely human.

Emotional creativity

There’s another way of looking at this. Traditionally, in the age of the old masters, years of practice to develop craftsmanship in painting or sculpting were needed to become an artist. A lot, maybe too much, effort was spent on developing painting or sculpting skills. Years and years of cumbersome practice. For some, that even was the essence of art in those days.

But since the introduction of photography, and later other technology such as synthesizers in music, and now AI in all forms of art, this material type of craftsmanship has become less important. Slowly, it is being replaced by a new type of craftsmanship, that I would like to call emotional creativity: creating art as a means of human connection based on your knowledge of what you and other people like and don’t like, the confidence in your taste, and your ability to express what you feel.

And, by the way, you see this trend everywhere — not only in art. Here’s an article about the school system. It says: “While the past belonged to assembly line workers, the future belongs to creative thinkers, experimental doers, and inventive makers. The past relied on passivity; the future will be built on passion.”

And it could well be, that the focus on emotional creativity will give art a new purpose. Still bringing joy from beauty, but also affirmation of who we really are: creating identity and meaning through narratives, both individually and as human beings. Attempting to reduce existential loneliness, art may help us feel that we belong in the life that we want to live. That is what I always meant with ‘Warm Grounding‘.

But make no mistake. Becoming a master in emotional creativity may take years and years of cumbersome practice …

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