Talking Art of Pixels and paints
CHENNAI: We live in the era of the unreal. On offer are two versions of anything and everything — the real and the fake. From smiles to lifestyles, happiness to stardom — there is no limit to the illusions one can create. The only thing that remained untouched by artificiality was one’s intelligence. Earning a top grade by copying in the annual examinations was an option to proclaim intelligence, but it always failed when put to the test in one’s later years. Those shackles too have been broken now, with the advent of AI. For the uninitiated, AI does not mean our good old Air India. It simply stands for Artificial Intelligence.
One could say that AI has left no field untouched. Art too, until now, a purely human pursuit, has succumbed. AI-generated art has been making waves and at the same time, causing restlessness in the art community. So, how does AI work? AI art generators use artificial intelligence algorithms to create artworks. Using text prompts, any individual can transform into a Rembrandt.
It is only natural that this has outraged and disturbed a vast majority of artists. The reasons are many. How can a machine feel? What truth can technology without human intervention convey about human emotions? What depth can an art create such, ever have? There is also the question of ethics. AI can effortlessly replicate an artist’s work or style of painting if the right keywords are fed.
The question of copyrights is never considered and even artworks by living artists are appropriated. To state it plainly, it is a blatant theft of someone’s artistic trademark. To top it all, besides copycatting, there is the danger of anyone donning the garb of an artist, without possessing even a drop of creativity in their blood, merely by relying on these tools. An AI-generated artwork has even won an award in 2022!
Not everyone, though, agrees that AI spells doom. There are artists who have found the technology to be a boon to their artistic practice. Harshit Agarwal, an Indian artist, has been constantly trying to create images that no one has ever seen before, using AI. He is fascinated by the process and has been able to establish an emotional connection with the technology. In one of his works, titled Masked Reality, the viewer’s face takes up the visage of Kathakali and Theyyam dancers. While Kathakali is a dance form associated with the upper class and the latter not so, this transformation of the viewer’s face into dancers of both forms, is an attempt to break down caste barriers, with the aid of AI.
As with life, everything has its positives and its negatives, and so it is with AI too. When the camera was invented, French painter Paul Delaroche famously exclaimed, “From today, painting is dead”, on his first encounter with a photograph in 1840. And yet, painting is alive and thriving, often breaking auction records. The threat of AI may perhaps cause a far greater impact than a camera did. Nevertheless, true art will always transcend any artificial invention with its pure originality!