“Whoa. AI can create such amazing artwork. And now poetry, music, video...
will AI replace artists?”
Art fascinates me. It's one of those strange corners of the human experience that can only really be ascribed to humans.
Perhaps they just don't have the time.
Or maybe they just have very little to say.
Human cave paintings date back as far as 45,000 years, and art has evolved in amazing ways since then.
But why do humans create art? What exactly is it that art gives us?
Why Art Matters
My definition for Art has always been this-
Art is any form of human expression that can convey the artist's emotional experience to a viewer. It can take any form... poetry, painting, photography, music, a story... but without the expression of emotion, it is not art.
Living in Chicago, I had two museums near my home.
One was the Art Institute of Chicago, a world-renown museum that contained everything from ancient artifacts to Grecian statues and contemporary works. I could spend hours there deeply immersed in the thoughts and emotions those artists could evoke for me.
On the other side of my home was the Museum of Contemporary Art, which featured warpy-looking abstract figurines, and triangles and squiggles on white canvases. It looked like someone had broken into an art school while on LSD.
I felt emotion there as well... if confusion and nausea are emotions. I just didn't understand what those artists were trying to say. Maybe I needed some LSD, too.
This is my own personal definition of art, but I think it has merit,
I think this way because in my experience, art has an important function...
- It allows the artist to express complex feelings even if they are unable to do so verbally or in writing - and it allows people to understand and share in that artist's experience.
- It allows the artist to focus on particular aspects of an experience, or to explore it from different perspectives.
- It gives the artist an ability to capture those emotions, forever, long after they've faded from memory.
- It gives both the artist, and the viewer, the ability to examine and reflect on that emotion objectively, outside of them. To make sense of what's happening in their own inner experiences. In this way, art is a form of journaling.
The human mind is a complex, multilayered beast, and the experience I have is that half the time I don't even know what I'm thinking or feeling until I start expressing it.
For me, writing works sometimes, but other times it needs to be a different form of expression like dance, music, or even singing. Somehow these forms of expression give me perspective and understanding that journaling can't.
It's a kind of self-therapy.
The therapeutic aspect of art appears to be very powerful and is why there are a growing number of art therapies like dance & movement therapy, drawing, storytelling, and even sand play.
The AI Art Revolution
This year, we've entered a phase of human history where AI can "create art" better than most humans. Many people are afraid that artists and human-made art will become entirely obsolete.
Here is the state of AI art at the end of April, 2023.
Poetry & Writing
Most notable today is Midjourney, which has a public community showcase. It can create a huge range of imagery from paintings and sketches to fully realistic photographs.
It can even create works in the style of specific artists, or re-create existing photos with new styles and elements.
Boris Eldagsen's AI-generated category-winning photo.
Earlier this year, Boris Eldagsen won the Sony world photography award by submitting an AI-generated image. The judges had no idea until after they'd awarded him.
To his credit, he revealed the truth and turned down the award, which he hoped would spark real discussion about AI art.
How real can it get?
I've been using Midjourney v5 daily while working on projects and client websites.
Here's one I generated because I needed a photo of a female with freckles for a skin clinic.
Pretty real, eh?
Here are a few others I've generated that are equally stunning;
- An elegantly wrapped gift
- A man studying and surrounded by books
- A programmer surrounded by computer screens
- A doctor giving a young child a PCR swab test
- A woman getting beauty treatments
- Some smiling female models
And tons more.
- Aiva.ai generates music for soundtracks. Listen to some stunning examples of their creations on their Aiva's YouTube channel.
- Google's MusicLM generates high-fidelity music from a text prompt such as "a calming violin melody backed by a distorted guitar riff". Listen to the examples here.
- This music video was entirely generated by AI, with the visuals generated based on the lyrics. Watch the visuals change to represent each phrase of the song.
- Acting is also being replaced on a number of levels. Notable is the ability to "deepfake" fully lifelike avatars from a single photo, that can do whatever you want in video. Video deepfakes now work in real-time.
- Check out how realistic "Metahumans" are getting for gaming NPCs.
- Google's DeepMind collaborated with the British contemporary dance company Wayne McGregor to create an AI-driven dance piece. The AI system generated choreography by learning patterns and structures from a dataset of McGregor's previous works, and the resulting piece was performed by human dancers.
- Here's a cheeky take by Will Kwan two years ago and a discussion of deepfaking movements, using a dance video and only one image of the "dancer" you want to perform them.
- More dancers are experimenting with AI-generated choreography.
- Soon, robots will perform dance too.
So is art dead?
Not one bit. I think artists are safe, probably forever... even if super-intelligent AGI becomes a reality.
In fact, art will become more alive than ever as a central part of the human experience.
If AI plays into the future of humans the way I expect it will, there will be a point when there will be a lot fewer jobs and a lot less need for them.
Food availability, housing, power, health and even government will be solved problems and if we're lucky, we'll enter an age of prosperity and freedom like never before.
For the first time, humans will be even free of work.
But what will we do with all that extra time?
We still need meaning and purpose, and soon enough, survival and safety will not be concerns we are often confronted with.
We'll all be living in the top half of Maslow's hierarchy.
In that space... all of our energy will need to go to social connection, self fulfillment, philosophy, and lots and lots of art.
Pretty pictures might become the territory of AI... but it can never replace artists.
Artists, show us the way
It's important to understand why art is more than pretty pictures, so let's invest some time here exploring a few real examples.
Here are a few artists who show us something different- something unique about themselves, about ourselves, and about being human.
They show us things that humans are capable of at our best, and all of these experiences help us live our lives better.
Because we're talking about the importance of art as a form of communication and human connection, I'm also gong to show you some reaction videos too.
Ren - “Hi Ren”
This guy is awesome. Not only is he an amazingly versatile performer, he has deeply embraced ways to deeply relate very difficult topics in the human experience such as mental health challenges.
The lyrics here are brilliant and important, so if you struggle to keep up, it's worth turning on closed captions - just click the CC at the bottom of the YouTube player.
- Jonathan Hiller ( Filmmaker ), reflecting on his own past mental health challenges while watching.
- Many more reactions as a compilation.
Dimash Kudaibergen - “S.O.S.”
Dimash is an operatic sensation who has rather rocked the World with his unbelievable level of voice control.
CELLOS - Thunderstruck
What about a cheeky combo of masterful artistry, and a riff on old school classical thinking? This duo nails it.
Kontra K - An deiner Seite
This example is a story told as an interactive music video.
You can switch perspectives mid video between what's happening right now, and what happened the night before, to look for clues as the story unfolds.
It's a creative marvel of storytelling, exploring curiosity, fear, anger, sadness, and rage. It's worth a few watches.
This is what art is all about, and no matter how intelligent AI becomes, it will never understand the human experience from the perspective of a human.
It will not have evolved with the same emotions and needs, feel the same desires, or face the same risks. It will be a different thing altogether, no matter how humanlike it seems.
Consider this... if any of the art examples I gave above had been generated by an AI, we simply wouldn't connect with it in the same way. We'd feel zero empathy, and no wow factor at all. It would just be another CG experience.
Sure AI will be able to evoke emotion. People are already falling in love with AI's, and it's going to get much worse.
But... I feel emotions like awe when I see a sunset too... that doesn't make it art.
A human didn't create that.
If you're an artist, keep honing your craft. It is perhaps the one thing that can save the world, keep us connected, and give us meaning when we automate ourselves out of jobs.
It just might be the difference between a utopian future, and some kind of hell.
The world needs you, and art is perhaps the one thing that can us from ourselves.
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Can animals create art?
Various animals have been observed creating or participating in art-like activities, often with human assistance or encouragement. While it's important to note that these animals may not have the same understanding or intention behind their creations as humans do, their actions can still be considered a form of art. Some examples of animals that have been known to create or participate in art include:
1. Elephants: Some elephants have been trained to hold a paintbrush in their trunks and create paintings on canvas. These paintings often feature abstract shapes and lines, but some elephants have been guided to create more recognizable images like trees or flowers.
2. Primates: Chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans have been observed using various materials like paint or markers to create artwork. Some primates have even been given art lessons by humans to help them develop their skills.
3. Dolphins: Dolphins have been known to create bubble rings underwater, which some people consider a form of art. Additionally, some dolphins have been trained to hold a paintbrush in their mouths and create paintings on canvas.
4. Birds: Some birds, like parrots and crows, have been trained to use tools like paintbrushes to create simple artwork. Bowerbirds are known for their elaborate nests, which they decorate with brightly colored objects to attract mates.
5. Rats: Rats have been trained to hold a paintbrush in their mouths and create paintings on canvas, often using their whiskers to guide the brush strokes.
6. Pigs: Some pigs have been trained to use their snouts to paint on canvas, creating abstract paintings with unique textures.
7. Horses: A few horses have been trained to create paintings using a brush held in their mouths, often using sweeping, abstract strokes.
In most cases, these animals require human assistance, guidance, or training to create art. The level of intentionality and creativity in their work is often debated, but it is still fascinating to see how animals can engage in artistic activities.
Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses creative expression as a means of communication and self-exploration. It can help individuals process emotions, cope with stress, and enhance self-awareness. Art therapists are trained professionals who use a variety of artistic mediums and techniques to facilitate therapeutic outcomes. Some popular forms of art therapy include:
1. Drawing and painting: These are the most common forms of art therapy, as they allow individuals to express their feelings and thoughts using colors, lines, and shapes. Drawing and painting can be done with various materials, such as pencils, charcoal, pastels, watercolors, acrylics, or oils.
2. Sculpture and clay work: Working with three-dimensional materials like clay, plaster, or papier-mâché can provide a tactile experience that helps individuals connect with their emotions and develop fine motor skills.
3. Collage: Creating collages from magazine images, photographs, or other materials allows individuals to explore themes, emotions, or personal narratives in a non-threatening way.
4. Printmaking: Techniques like monoprinting, linocut, or screen printing can provide unique opportunities for self-expression and exploration of various textures, patterns, and colors.
5. Photography: Taking photographs, manipulating images, or creating photo collages can help individuals explore their perceptions and perspectives on their environment and experiences.
6. Textile and fiber arts: Techniques such as knitting, crocheting, weaving, or sewing can be therapeutic and help individuals develop mindfulness, focus, and relaxation.
7. Digital art: Using digital tools like drawing tablets, computers, or even smartphone apps can provide a modern and accessible way for individuals to engage in art therapy.
8. Creative writing and journaling: Writing poetry, stories, or personal reflections can help individuals express and process their emotions and experiences.
9. Drama and dance therapy: Expressing emotions and experiences through movement, role-playing, or improvisation can be a powerful way to engage with one's inner world.
10. Music therapy: Creating, listening to, or engaging with music can help individuals process emotions, develop self-expression, and improve overall well-being.
Art therapists may use one or several of these techniques depending on the individual's needs, preferences, and therapeutic goals. The focus of art therapy is not on creating aesthetically pleasing artwork, but rather on the process of self-expression and the insights that emerge from it.