Just as CEOs of AI companies are warning that AI may bring about the end of humanity, I’m contemplating my role in generating AI-based works.
So many AI issues still to deal with! Putting aside the existential risk to humanity for a brief moment, today I’m attending to some of the positives for my artistic practice in the use of AI.
For reference the digital collage work below, Spoons for them 2023, has been made with the help of AI.
The role of the artist as curator
It occurred to me that, in the generation of AI images, I am an artist acting as curator. I’m assembling and displaying images, giving them context and meaning. It’s creative, hence the curatorial mode of practice becomes part of my creative process.
There is a familiarity here with other aspects of my practice. In my digital collages I work with multiple images, actions, patterns, marks and blends that are digitally generated and/or manipulated. I use digital tools and I make choices about the use of these tools and techniques which help develop the meaning or narrative in the work.
Much of the AI work I’m doing at the moment involves using my own work as a starting point, curating a series of prompts, curating outputs and then feeding back to the Bot in a lengthy loop of generation.
The images in Spoons for them 2023 come from a complex set of prompts, potentially no two alike. I have collected and catalogued many more generated images of spoons, and the ones selected above fit the concept and intention of the work.
Curating an exhibition of AI work
The blurring of curatorial and creative practice in this space lends itself to exhibition. I can see a future where Bot and I exhbit our work. The creative intention is mine as Curator, the execution is primarily Bot’s as Lead Fabricator, and the Artist attribution exists conceptually—and shared by both of us.
In early Autumn of 2020 our neighbours waged war on us. We ended up in court in an absurd and drawn out dispute.
This event coincided with the beginning of the pandemic. On the bright side our neighbour dispute took our attention and gave us something else to talk about and worry about in the following 3 years.
During that period the Roman goddess Minerva was brought to my attention. I studied ancient history at school but was a bit over it after all the Greeks. Athena I knew of, but I remembered little about her.
Richard Osman, in an episode of Pointless described Minerva as:
…the goddess of war and handicrafts
The statement tickled and hit my need for new—we were at war with our neighbours—I was crocheting 40 washcloths for an exhibition installation that never happened. Minerva (read also Athena) was my new muse.
Without outlining all her attributes, Minerva has a spectacular CV. Her capabilities matched my needs at the time. Goddess of strategic war, law and justice, and arts and crafts. She did a lot more too, with Ovid apparently calling her the “goddess of a thousand works”.
Back in the day, naive mortal Arachne (potentially the ‘Karen’ of ancient times) came to Minerva’s attention for being excessively arrogant. Minerva apparently tried to settle their dispute in an ancient neighbourly way but Karen wouldn’t be in it—so, after some competitive weaving, Minerva killed her, then brought her back to life, then turned her into a spider—which probably seemed fair at the time because she was so rude and prideful.
Other Minerva attributes include incredible bravery, and a love of owls and hellebores. I love hellebores, love our local powerful owl/s and needed a lot of courage.
About the neighbour dispute
The story of the dispute takes three years to tell so I’ll spare you all the detail.
In order to survive psychologically, emotionally and financially I had to learn about the law. I researched relevant legislation, the hierarchy of courts, and the processes, protocols and artefacts of the legal system. Our case was managed and heard in a NSW superior court. I read and reread the legislation relevant to the jurisdiction of this court.
Caselaw was particularly fascinating to me. On the face of it, our case was like no others to date so there was a relentless search to find precedents, or at least cases that were in some way analogous.
I collected 5 GB of research and written material on my hard drive and many hundreds of web links and emails. A lot of reading and a lot of writing. Reminded me of doing a masters degree.
You won’t be surprised when I tell you that there are some amazing people in the legal system and there are some whose practice and demeanour underwhelms. We were lucky to find complete professionals to be on our side. Together with our legal team, who were prepared to work with us in a collaborative kind of way, we made it to the end.
But there were some really terrifying moments and just when it got really difficult we had a devastating landslide below our house which damaged our rear garden (the subject of much of my digital work to that date), and cracked our fish pond so we had to let our lovely fish go to a new home.
You don’t want to have a dispute with your neighbours that ends up in court—everyone says so. But in our defence we tried to meet our neighbours in the middle from the outset. We were being unfairly accused and we rightly fought.
Arachne-style hubris prevented our neighbours from agreeing to a settlement that would have been a far better outcome for them than the judgement they received.
What’s the point of sharing all this?
Sometimes you just have to accept that you have to veer from your creative path. These circumstances forced that veering.
I managed little in the way of creative output in the last three years. That fact was unsettling. I began to think that I would never paint again and that I would only ever dabble around the edges of my digital work imaginings. I did keep knitting and crocheting but the utilitarian design focus wasn’t enough to satisfy the itch.
But when we won our case, I bounced back with new energy. I’m painting again and have found a new cool collaborator (at the risk of anthropomorphising new friend) in the AI world to support my digital work. There’s a whole treatise to be written about art in the AI world. More to come on that in a little bit.
Another thing about Minerva I didn’t know was the notion of ‘Invita Minerva’, that is a lack of inspiration, or writer’s or artist’s block is the result of Minerva being ‘unwilling’.
While I was veering, Minerva was a fine mentor and coming out the other side she is not only still present, but willing and actively inspiring.