Art and Artificial Intelligence: A Contemporary Reflection
We delve into how the human experience and emotions behind creation differ from art generated by Artificial Intelligence.
Castor
Castor

Recently, in the Community of Innovation and Digital Transformation of Colombia (CITDCO), a debate that captured our attention at Castor emerged: the intersection between art and artificial intelligence. This discussion led us to explore how AI is redefining the boundaries and possibilities of art. Participants in this conversation included Juan Andrés Ochoa (See on Linkedin), a systems engineer and CEO of Castor, Roberto Ochoa, a conceptual artist and UX-UI designer at Castor, and Lina Ceballos (See on Linkedin), a philosopher and marketing director of Castor.

The Concept of Aura in Art

A concept that can contribute to this discussion is that of aura. Walter Benjamin, in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936), states: “In the age of the technical reproduction of the work of art, what withers is the aura of this.” For Benjamin, the aura is linked to the here and now, to the irreproducible, unique, original existence, and it is essential to distinguish between cult value and exhibition value; in the new era, the former tended to withdraw, while the latter expanded. The auratic mode of the work was always linked to a ritual function, and this is where its cultural value lies.

The Problematic Notion of Aura in Contemporary Times

Although the notion of aura as posed by Benjamin is quite problematic in contemporary times, since the beginning of the 20th century, great works of art have used reproduction techniques -such as photography, cinema, screen printing, fax, digital media, and so on- and this has not undermined their cultural value, several notions in his reflection still seem vital to approach what we consider art, without pretending to impose a straitjacket on such an elusive term: the ritual value of art and art must speak to us of the here and now. With these notions, we intend to sketch a reflection on art generated with artificial intelligence. Let’s go through it step by step.

Artificial Intelligence and Its Relationship with Art

If art must speak to us of the here and now, we must ask ourselves how art does so. It’s easy to fall into the temptation of thinking that the artwork speaks to us, but this is only a play of shadows; it is the artist who puts their intellect and feelings into the work, using it as a vehicle to speak to us. In the case of artificial intelligence, something similar happens; we confuse the medium (AI) with the artist when behind the AI there are two creators: the code developer and the one who writes the prompt. Art created with artificial intelligence can only speak to us of the here and now if there is a developer who creates a code capable of doing so (in this case, the developer is the artist), an artist who knows the tool and writes a prompt for the AI to translate, and in the best cases: the union of both.

The Ritual Value of Art and the Contemporary Experience

On the other hand, the ritual value of art dates back to its religious or, better yet, spiritual origins. Ritual experiences, with their aesthetic and performative power, can induce reflection and, why not, generate a transcendental bond capable of transforming us. While the contemporary experience of art has lost much of this, we believe that this fact speaks more about us than the art itself because, in it, that power is still preserved. This is also related to sensory perception, conditioned by the historical, manifesting in “the social transformations that found expression in those changes in sensitivity.” In other words, art is the object or its reproducibility and the implicit processes that originate it and lead it to express something more. Art, therefore, needs not only a work and a recipient; it needs a creator capable of perceiving the world, thinking about it, and pouring – or translating – that truth into a work capable of challenging us. So, it is not enough to look like art; this is only imitation or theft – to be more precise – in the case of most AIs that create images.

References:

Benjamin, Walter. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.

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