Colorado, Aug. 29, 2022. An institutionally supported art competition announces the names of winning works and authors. Nothing excessive, this is an event that does not in itself arouse market clamor, its repercussions branching out almost exclusively on a local scale. Or at least, that would have been the case if Twitter had not exploded with outrage over a technical detail that fueled web discussions: one of the victorious entries was created through the use of an image synthesizing algorithm. Of an artificial intelligence, in short.

The incriminated work is the Theatre d’Opera Spatial signed by artist Jason Allen, a product of “digitally manipulated photography” generated by the Midjourney program that managed to win the favor of the jury and the dislike of all those who cry for a new extinction of art. Since the results of the fair went viral on the Internet, Allen has garnered scathing criticism, unqualified support, and a couple of death threats.

The reaction was strong, but not unexpected. “In using Midjourney, I wished to launch a statement, to bring forth debate,” the artist revealed to us, who also preferred the program in question because it was firmly linked to the social Discord, a reality that already lends itself to confrontation. His stimulus was accepted, however, the reaction certainly exceeded the man’s expectations, and he received an overwhelming response.

The heated debate that affects Allen and, by extension, Midjourney, merely renews a confrontation that is destined never to subside, that which concerns the “vanishing point” of the art system, that is, the definition of that point of no return at which art is transformed into a simulacrum, that boundary whereby it loses its “aura” of uniqueness to become an object that permeates the political values of the age. Values that in current times are close to the Dogmas of finance. It is therefore a confrontation that is bound to sharpen, especially those times when a technique capable of intensifying the mechanical reproducibility of the artistic product is introduced into the system. It happened with photography, it happens with artificial intelligence.

In this sense, the issue has already been widely addressed by leading thinkers. First in the 1930s by the German philosopher Walter Benjamin, then in the 1970s by the English critic John Berger, both of whom propagated the generally accepted theory that artistic content can safely transcend the ritualistic and craft value of manual production. In other words, the use of a tool is not helpful in determining whether or not a work can be considered pregnant with artistic value. At the same time, the heated reaction to Allen’s assisted victory can only raise legitimate questions about the future of creative crafts.

Article from “Wired” – continue reading