A man won first place in the Colorado State Fair fine art competition using an AI-generated artwork on Monday. “I won first place,” a user known as Sincarnate said in a Discord post, above photos of the AI-generated canvases on display at the fair.
Sincarnate’s win sparked heated discussions on social media about the nature of art and what it means to be an artist. Some commentators believe that human art is doomed by AI and that all artists are destined to be replaced by machines. Others think the art will evolve and adapt to new technologies that come along, citing synthesizers in music.
Sincarnate’s name is Jason Allen, president of Colorado-based tabletop game company Incarnate Games. According to the state fair’s website, he won in the digital arts category with a work titled “Space Opera Theater.” The image, which Allen printed on canvas for submission, is stunning. It depicts an eerie scene that could be taken from a space opera and looks like a masterfully crafted painting. Classical figures in a baroque room step forward through a circular porthole into a sunny, radiant landscape.
But Allen didn’t paint the “Space Opera Theater”, an AI software called Midjourney did. He used his instructions, but Allen did not wield the digital brush. The accolade sparked controversy on Twitter where working artists and enthusiasts accused Allen of hastening the death of creative jobs. “We watch the death of art unfold before our eyes. “If creative jobs aren’t machine-proof, then even highly skilled jobs are at risk of becoming obsolete. What will we have then?” said a Twitter user calling himself OmniMorpho in a response that got over 2,000 likes.
“I knew it would be controversial. How interesting how all those people on Twitter who are against AI-generated art are the first to throw the human under the bus by discrediting the human element! Does that sound hypocritical to you guys? said Allen on the Midjourney Discord server on Tuesday.
According to Allen, his contribution was instrumental in shaping the award-winning painting. “I explored a special post that I will post at a later date, created hundreds of images using it, and after many weeks of fine-tuning and selecting my people, I chose my top three images and had them printed on canvas after freeing myself from Gigapixel AI,” he wrote in a post before the winners were announced.
Allen said his critics judge art by the method of its creation, and eventually the art world will recognize AI-created art as its own category. “What if we looked at this from the other extreme, and if an artist did a series of wildly difficult and complicated constraints in order to create a piece, let’s say they made their art by being hung upside down and whipped while painting,” he said. Should the work of this artist be valued differently than that of another artist who created the same work “normally”? I know what’s going to happen to all of this in the end, they’re just going to create an ‘art of artificial intelligence’ category I guess for things like that.”