ART AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF CONTEMPORARY CREATION?

In August 2018 for the first time (and for a price never thought) Christie's auctioned a work made by artificial intelligence. Since then, the news around this technological side of art has only increased and the headlines conquer the covers of specialised media in the sector.

Pierre Fautrel, from the collective Obvious, “Edmond de Bellamy”, portrait made by AI, 2018 (image from Christie's)

The main difficulty that arises in this regard, and for which many detractors of the application of technological advances to the art world maintain their criticism, is the questioning of true creativity as an exclusively human skill. While innovations and the use of technology in other sectors are welcome, to enlarge the possibilities of expansion and research, the same does not apply to the art world. Admitting that a work made by artificial intelligence can compete in the market with other pieces made by artists puts into question the very concept of art and its intellectual and aesthetic appreciation as a genuinely human skill.

Mario Klingemann, "Memories of Passersby I", installation of the artwork sold at Sotheby's (image from La Vanguardia)

However, we must approach this question with the curiosity of an intrepid researcher, willing to break moulds. Thus, the creativity gets rid off that kind of mysticism that surrounds it and is analysed as a quality that can be translated into predictive algorithms and simulation patterns with an eminently scientific approach. In this context, we begin to speak of "computational creativity" to refer to the study of software behaviour whose performance and results can be considered creative. The possibilities are almost endless, and in recent times, the development of computer creativity software has grown exponentially.

But what is creativity? Can one determine when something is creative and when not? Back in the 50s, the Turing method developed to analyse the value of the objects produced by its software was extended. According to this method, if in a set of objects, some of which were made by a computer and others by a person, people could not distinguish one object from another, then the software worked correctly. This parameter, however, cannot be applied in the same way to creativity, because people do not value here the result obtained but the value of the work based on whether it has been created genuinely by a person or by a computer.

Jake Elwes, "CUSP", frame, 2019 (image from www.zabludowiczcollection.com)

Also keep in mind that even when we talk about computer creativity, we cannot ignore the part of human intervention in software programming. The research and applied knowledge that lead to writing that code is the result of a very personal intellectual work that also involves an in-depth analysis of the phases of the process itself. And this is where one of the main difficulties lies, because how and when does a creative idea arise? For now, it has become clear that these programs work with an initial phase of learning based on the detection of patterns, as is common in music or painting. Then, once the patterns are learned, they are applied to newly created work. But the mystery remains the same: what happens when there are no such patterns? How do ideas and creative thoughts arise in our mind? Difficult solution.

But it seems clear that artificial intelligence has come to stay and that we will have to deal with the multitude of matters that stem from this new reality: who is now the author of the work? How are intellectual property rights transmitted, if any? And many other issues.

ADA - Art Law Association and the Telefónica Foundation have organised an event on "Art and Artificial Intelligence", with the help of expert speakers, to open the debate around the challenges that new technologies pose in the art market of the 21st century. Thursday, June 5th at 7:00 p.m.

 

Among the specialised professional profiles that we find in the cultural sector, and more specifically, in the field of visual arts, one of the most recent occupations is that of the curator. The ‘80s put attention on the role of the artist, with its innovative character and the enhancement of its figure as an essential articulator of creative proposals, while the end of the century moved the interest towards the exhibition centres themselves and their work as custodians of current production and as spaces to accommodate all proposals. The change of millennium strongly introduced in this panorama the role of the curator. Perhaps together with a social identity crisis, perhaps with the complexity that contemporary projects are currently acquiring, the need for building, articulating and delving into artistic discourses became evident.

Although the functions entrusted to this profession are not entirely new, since previously they belonged to conservatives, critics or experts according to the themes, the role has gained solidity because it combines all these purposes while allowing the specialisation of other professionals in their fields of competence. Now, as some curators themselves point out, the genuine spirit of this figure, who was born to facilitate the understanding of the discourse, create narratives within a sometimes chaotic and scattered context, mediate between the works and the spectator and create bridges between contemporary art and society.

The art of our day raises a multitude of unknowns for the visitor who must face proposals many times away from the aesthetic standards, which gives way to uncertainty and confusion; but, in turn, these works employ a closer language, materials and even compositions detached from the sophistication and the technical display of yesteryear, something that, far from favouring proximity to the message, generates some distancing. What we have just described is part of the very essence of current art. The questioning of the formalist guidelines and the recourse to tangible elements that are more utilitarian than embellishing are the new criteria of creation, where, above all, the message to be conveyed stands out.

Likewise, another inherent characteristic of the work of our time is the artists' concern for more immediate themes, for social, political and economic issues that seek to create a narrative and conceptual revulsion, leaving behind the aesthetic priority or, rather, making of the message its own aesthetic. In this context, strange as it may seem, contemporary creation encounters a linguistic barrier hindering the viewer's understanding. And to this circumstance, the abundant current production is added, covering a wide range of themes that are nothing more than a transcript of our diverse and globalised society.

The curator helps to facilitate this understanding by articulating a coherent discourse that allows the grouping of related ideas to set up the message. This requires to have an in-depth knowledge of the current state of the art, the lines of work of the creators, the most recent aesthetic proposals and the real demands of society to bridge the dialogue and allow the approach to art. If art deals with the same issues that concern us all, how can we not share its postulates? Cultural mediation requires the work of the curators to open a small window for reflection and to enable a space for exchange and idea generation. We share the thought that José Guirao expressed in a recent interview: "The curator is someone who reveals something new, and it would be a mistake for curators to become managers."

Understood this way curator’s role, many institutions have joined the trend of creating specific calls for new professionals to give light to their proposals. Let us remember, as an example, the call "Unpublished" of La Casa Encendida, or "Curator wanted", of the Community of Madrid or the call of Curating of La Caixa.