AI-generated art wins contest, artists say they ‘didn’t create anything’

Artificial intelligence continues to advance in all areas of life. There’s the tremendous progress made by Google’s Deep Mind, which has achieved major milestones such as defeating the best human at the extremely complex game of Go, and also beating us meatbags at the StarCraft 2 video game.

While those victories didn’t generate as much controversy – although they certainly generated a lot of discussion and generated tons of columns – a recent story about AI generated much stronger feelings. Indeed, an artist using AI has won a fairly popular art contest, with some detractors accusing the winner of not really being an artist at all. Jason Allen won first place at the Colorado Sate Fair Fine Art Competition, in the digital arts category. But it was how he won that sparked the debate. That’s because Allen entered the contest using an AI-generated image (via IFL Science).


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Allen had “explored a special prompt” with an image-generating AI called Midjourney. He created hundreds of images using this AI and spent weeks “refining and curating” his images before choosing what he thought was best to print on canvas after putting them out there. scale using Gigapixel AI This is from a Discord channel dedicated to Mijourney where Allen posts under the username Sincarnate.

He told the channel, after learning of his win, “I decided to make a statement by using Midjourney competitively and wow! I couldn’t be more excited to have won with my favorite track: ‘Theatre d ‘Space Opera’.”

His artwork won over 20 other artists in the “digitally manipulated photography” category and Allen was awarded a blue ribbon and $300. The works in question show a rather opulent and cosmic theme, depicting thinly dressed figures in space and are detailed with textured colors and a sense of drama. Apparently the judges couldn’t tell the art was AI generated. A judge said she wouldn’t have changed her decision anyway, saying the work “has a concept and a vision that it [Allen] brought to reality, and it really is a beautiful piece”.

Speaking to The Washington Post, Allen said he spent 80 hours creating more than 900 versions of the art, altering the prompts to adjust the results, adding words such as ‘opulent’ and ‘lavish’ to edit the images to your liking. He told the judges he made the artwork using Midjourney, but didn’t specify that it was an AI after they didn’t ask for more.

The win sparked some outrage, with a Tweet saying it’s “damn shit” that AI-generated art won, with that Tweet “liked” nearly 90,000 times at the time of writing. Meanwhile, comic book artist Chris Shehan used an analogy to critique the result: “Let’s pretend AI art doesn’t exist for a second,” he wrote on Twitter. “Someone sends an artist a bunch of prompts, the artist makes the art and sends it back to the person who writes the prompts. That person then enters the art into a contest under their own name and wins. It’s unethical.”

For his part, Allen strongly defended both the artwork and his decision to enter the competition, while the organizers of the Colorado State Fair fine art competition made it clear that he did not violate no rules.

This is a real point of debate, as the use of AI grows in creating art, and there are artists (including those who entered the competition) who side more with AI. Allen and take a broader view of the use of technology in art. After all, technology has always aided in the creation of works of art. Maybe AI is just the last tool. Whichever side of the debate you are on, the discussion is likely to continue.

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