Does AI-Generation Result in Better Art?

“New Opportunities” – Bill Hertha, MidJourney Terms: Paul Klee, open door, fields, pathway, sunshine, opportunity

If the balance of work shifts from artist to machine the question is whether this is progress? Can we expect better art? However, the question may be less about better and more about different. Each technology change has opened new doors of opportunity, and these have enabled something different. Is different better? [i]

If we define “better” in terms of the physical product, I might be able to produce better works [given my limited skills] but it doesn’t follow that the art world as a whole will be better off.  If we define art in terms of the message or meaning a work submits, then it’s like asking whether we will be able to produce better ideas.  That is unclear, however, a better expression of a personal insight might be more realistic.

There is another aspect of art that deserves some consideration: authenticity. I use this term to mean decoupling a work from personal prejudices and cultural themes in an effort to present the truth or the essence of some thing. The camera is an example of a tool that was said to have taken steps to remove subjectivity by removing the “hand of man” in the depiction of an image. When Barthes argued the “Death of the Author” or Robert Morris’s practice of letting the materials determine form, they were talking about removing the subjectivity of the author from the work.[ii] [iii]They were looking for unmediated results.

This notion of decoupling the subjectivity from art has been expressed in various ways, using various terms, including disinterestedness, the banal and the reticence to accept “beauty” as any part of legitimate art (at least in photography). Margaret Iversen submits “That what is being described here is an art practice that tries to circumvent selfish desire, power, mastery, possessiveness — the whole complex of relations that normally governs our lives.” [iv]

The proposal is that like the camera’s ability to render an image unmediated by the prejudices and preconceptions of the painter, that AI can do the same. It follows from this point that democratization implies not only enabling more people to create art works, it suggests also that an artist’s preconceptions can be removed from the work. This, of course, is a good thing if that’s what you want to do.

Yet, like a photograph whose conception is not limited to just the image the mechanics of the camera captures, so AI-generation also has factors that are mediated by cultural norms, selfish desires, etc., such as: the nature of the images stored in the database, the terms used to index the images and the algorithm used to extract images from the database, just to name three.

Notwithstanding these mediations, one can say that the preconceptions of the artist might be reduced, but other ones remain and are more opaque. Like the camera, subjectivity is shifted, but not removed.

[i] Spratt, Emily L. Elgammal, Ahmed. Computational Beauty: Aesthetic Judgment at the Intersection of Art and Science.

[ii] Rowe, Hayley A. 2011. Appropriation in Contemporary Art. Inquiries Journal/Student Pulse 3 (06),

[iii] Iversen, Margaret. “Readymade, Found Object, Photograph.” Art Jounal, 2004. doi:10.1080/00043249.2004.10791125.

[iv] Ibid, Iversen


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *