Is AI Art “art”? It doesn’t matter because that’s the wrong question….

I read a long rant via Mastodon about how AI art “isn’t art” because it somehow isn’t emotionally provocative or doesn’t have an emotional intent…

It’s a long argued question of whether AI generated artwork is art or not. I don’t have an answer except to say it’s a bad question. But, specifically, this argument about emotional intent and response is very easy to poke holes in. I think it’s a weak line if reasoning if we want to argue against AI artwork.

Forgive the pretentious numbered list format. It was easier than coming up with an actual structure.

1️⃣ Many self-identified artists deliberately eschew emotional engagement with their work, with many exploring deliberate alienation instead of emotional engagement.

2️⃣ The disconnect between the emotional response of the recipient and the emotional intent of the artist very well documented and discussed. How you feel viewing a painting and how the artist intended for you to feel does not need to align.

1️⃣+2️⃣ Conclusion — if the artist had no emotional intent, it doesn’t preclude the recipient having an emotional reaction. This doesn’t change whether the artist is machine or human. Tying specific emotional involvements to your definition of art simply doesn’t work for all things considered art already.

3️⃣ So… you’re saying that the emotional response to scrolling through endless generic big-titted anime girls made by real people is valid and authentic, but emotional response to scrolling through endless (AI generated) generic big-titted anime girls that, at first glance, is indistinguishable from art made by real people is invalid or even non-existent?

3️⃣. 1️⃣ Corollary — finding out at a later time that something was AI generated retrospectively invalidates your emotional response? If we want to talk emotional authenticity, we can’t allow initial reactions to be cast aside like that.

4️⃣ What is the anger over art theft in AI artwork if not a very potent emotional response directly to the generation of AI Art?

5️⃣ The question of “what is art?” and its definition has been so hotly debated and explored over decades, if not centuries, that the idea that the emergence of a new tool single-handedly settles the debate into a clear “is/is not” binary feels, to me, naive at best.

5️⃣.1️⃣ Addendum — this has been done to death with digital art and photography. More generally, the idea that any tool invalidates artistic worth has also been done to death. It never stands the test of time.

5️⃣.2️⃣ Corollary — this path is a very slippery slope. You may as well claim that no valid and authentic emotional response is possible to a print or digital image viewed on a monitor as, after all, these are tools that dilute artistic integrity.

6️⃣ You can absolutely use AI artwork to deliberately provoke people emotionally (see 4️⃣). You can argue that the “art” is the act of the artist around the resulting image, which is somehow not part of the artistic work, but that would be incredibly arbitrary.

Anyway, I don’t think anyone should approach questions like “is it art?” under the assumption that there’s a binary yes/no answer. There isn’t. The question is flawed, and at the mercy of people’s prior assumptions and their motivated reasoning to put some things in one category but not others.

The question you need to ask is whether these systems were developed ethically and are going to be used ethically? That is: did the real artists who had their materials fed into the models properly consent to do so and did they receive proper compensation?

That question does have a straight answer: no.

After all, if you simply declare it “not art” then so fucking what?

Go on, derp away...

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