“When I started this article, I had no idea that it would lead to an existential crisis.” — Sarah Rainbow, production wizard at Amphio, investigates the complicated relationship between AI and art.
It began innocently enough by trying to define what art actually is, and why it gives me such a strange, hollow feeling to think of a computer program creating a piece of art.
When I look at a painting, I like to imagine it was painted by a downtrodden, under-appreciated, tortured creative in a grotty-looking studio, in emotional turmoil, covered in paint and tears, pouring their soul onto canvas as a way to express their pained existence.
It just seems so romantic that way, so full of meaning, so much more than just paint on canvas.
In light of this, you can understand my lack of enthusiasm for art made by a computer program. What possible journey could it have been on to make art? What heartache could it possibly be feeling? What inner turmoil could it be trying desperately to express to the world? Does any of that actually matter? What does art even mean? What does ANYTHING mean?
It was about this time when the existential crisis began.
So, before I completely vanish down the rabbit hole of “what does anything mean?” and “what does meaning mean”, I need to get back to the real question:
Can AI create art?
This time I am simply going to define being an artist as “creating art”. Phew. Without thinking about that too hard, why not see for yourself?
Here are a collection of things created by AI that I found inspiring and beautiful.
1. Harry Botter
Did you know that AI has been writing Harry Potter stories?
“The Malfoys!” said Hermione.
Harry was watching him. He looked like Madame Maxime. When she strode up the wrong staircase to visit himself.
“I’m afraid I’ve definitely been suspended from power, no chance — indeed?” said Snape. He put his head back behind them and read groups as they crossed a corner and fluttered down onto their ink lamp, and picked up his spoon. The doorbell rang. It was a lot cleaner down in London.
Hermione yelled. The party must be thrown by Krum, of course.
Harry collected fingers once more, with Malfoy. “Why, didn’t she never tell me. …” She vanished. And then, Ron, Harry noticed, was nearly right.
You can read the full version here.
So the syntax is pretty non-standard, but the essence of J K Rowling’s writing style is certainly there. If you were skim reading, or reading whilst thinking about something else, you may not even notice.
2. AI does poetry
You say, what is the moon waiting for in its sun-kissed grace?
I tell you it is waiting for rivers like you
binding all in light and water!
A current of boundless music
that does not know why it flows and plays.
I think this poem is really beautiful. Does it bother me it was written by AI? I have to admit that it does a little. Only if I think about it too much. If I take it on face-value, I truly find it inspiring. Create your “regular”, or “mushy”, AI poem here.
3. AI gets artsy
Google’s “Deepdream” has been hard at work creating beautiful bits of artwork.
DeepDream is a computer vision program that uses a neural network to find and enhance patterns in images via algorithmic pareidolia, (a psychological phenomenon in which the mind responds to a stimulus by perceiving a familiar pattern where none exists) thus creating a dream-like hallucinogenic appearance in the images.
You can end up with some amazing things like this…
Again, I just have to take it at face-value. I love the colours, I love the patterns, I love the depth. I feel myself slowly getting over my need for art having to have meaning for me to enjoy it.
Would I hang it on my wall? Yes.
They have also devised something called “Deep Style” which can manipulate an image to a chosen artistic style.
From a user perspective, it’s very simple. You upload a photo of your choice [man facing the ocean] and then choose an artistic style you’d like the photo to adopt, [Leonardo da Vinci] hit submit and there you have it!
Try creating one yourself here!
4. AI creates the next Beatles song
This song “Daddy's Car” is a song composed by Artificial Intelligence – in the style of The Beatles.
After feeding the AI system, called FlowMachine, a hefty amount of the Beatles back catalogue, it was then able to imitate their compositional style. The final result does have a human touch, however. In the case of both songs above, French composer Benoît Carré arranged the songs and wrote the lyrics.
So, can AI create art?
I simply have to conclude that AI can create art. My reasoning being that it challenges us to think and question the world, which I think the best art does.
What I have shown you is just a small selection of AI art that I found beautiful and inspiring, but there are certainly plenty of dubious pieces that I discovered, such as this “Soundcloud bot”…
But my dislike for this is really down to my personal taste. I certainly don’t like all art made by humans (in fact, I probably only actually like about 2% of the art I experience), so why should it be any different for AI art? As always, beauty is in the AI of the beholder.
Hopefully, humans and machines can learn to work together to create beauty, like this guy…
Sarah Rainbow, Amphio