The weird and wonderful art created when AI and humans unite

After a few weeks of experimentation, I realized that AI has the potential to describe imaginary works of art. To my delight, I discovered that I could get it to write the kind of text you see on the wall sign next to the painting in the art gallery. This would prove to be the start of a fascinating journey together with GPT-3 and a suite of other AI artistic tools, leading to work ranging from a physical sculpture of toilet plungers to full-size oil paintings on a Mayfair wall. art Gallery.

Art generated by artificial intelligence has sparked a lot of debate in recent months about whether it will be bad news for artists. There is no doubt that we are in for disruptive change, and there are still important questions about bias, ethics, ownership, and representation that need to be answered. But it wouldn’t be the first time that new technology has caused upheaval in the art world – it’s been happening for centuries. And in my own experience, working with artificial intelligence in the creation of sculptures, paintings and other things has changed the way I think about the creative process and the possibilities of human-machine collaboration. I believe that we are now witnessing the emergence of a completely new art form.

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To be clear, when I’m talking about AI, it’s not an anthropomorphic or sentient system, but a machine learning algorithm – and there has to be a human in the process. I learned this quickly in my early experiments with the GPT-3 when I asked it to create imaginary works of art. While it was fairly easy to get the system to produce descriptions that all sounded good, getting it to produce the output I was thinking of interesting was a completely different matter. I spent about a month on “prompt engineering”, a term that means writing effective input text for AI systems.

Once I found a sequence of initial words that would “tickle” the AI ​​in the right way, I developed a workflow with GPT-3 and other algorithms that could create a description of the artwork and the fictional human name of its creator, along with their date of birth and other details (which are sometimes obtained by asking GPT-3 questions). I then went through hundreds to thousands of climbs to find the ones I liked. These were then fed back into the system to create more text. I then corrected the punctuation, spacing, and other technical adjustments to the text (nothing that would change its meaning).

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I knew I had hit on the right recipe when I got the following output (which made me laugh a little too hard alone in my studio in lockdown):

The sculpture includes a plunger, a toilet plunger, a plunger, a plunger, a plunger, and a plunger, each of which has been modified. The first piston is simply a normal piston, but the rest are a series of pistons with larger and larger portions of the handle removed until only the rubber cup remains. The title of the artwork is “A Brief History of Plungers and Other Things That Go Plunge in the Night” by artists known as “Plungers” (whose identity remains unknown).

“The Plungers” was a collective of anonymous artists, founded in 1972. They were dedicated to the “conceptualization and promotion of a new art form called Plungism.” Plungism was a creative interpretation of the idea of ​​plungerism, defined by The Plungers as “a state of mind in which the artist’s mind is in a state of flux and can be influenced by all things, even plungers”. The Plungers’ works were exhibited in New York galleries and included such titles as “Plunger’s Progress”, “The Plungers”, “The Plungers Strike Back” and “Big Plunger 4: The Final Plunger”, all of which featured plungers and “Plungers on Parade” , which showed images of plungers in public spaces. The plungers disappeared, leaving no trace behind.

This got me thinking: what if I took these generative descriptions and created them in real life? Since AI cannot create physical objects, it would be up to my human abilities to do so. Moving the work from the digital to the physical realm, I concluded, would give them a weight and presence that is sometimes lacking on screen. A kind of symbiosis was created, when the artificial intelligence produced an output, which then “needed” my imagination, production ability, aesthetic judgment and intuition to visualize and complete.

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Here’s a physical manifestation of the piston artwork I created as part of a series AI called “AI Am I?”:


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