C l  i v e   P o w s e y /  D r a w / P r i n t / P a i n t

 

 

 

 

1/ Effigy 10x13 inches.

 

2/ Descending Bird Form, 8x12 inches.

 

3/ Two Figures, 8x12 inches.

 

 4/ Original Sinners, 9.5 x 13 inches.

 

5/ Winged Figure, 13x9.5 inches.

 

6/ Hooden Horse, Molly, Leader. 13.5x9.5 inches.

 

7/ Silurian Forms, 13.5x9.5 inches

 

 8/ Horse and Rider, 8x12 inches.

 

9/ Attractant, 8x12 inches.

 

10/ Two Unnatural Forms, 8x12 inches.

 

11/ Carnivore, 8x12 inches.

 

12/ Winged Descent, 8x12 inches.

 

13/ Jungle Fowl, 8x12 inches.

 

14/ Plummeting Wingform, 8x12 inches.

 

15/ Winged Arrangement, 8x12 inches.

 

16/ Birdform Hovering Over Flowers, 8x12 inches.

 

17/ Three Figures, 8x12 inches.

 

18/ Hidden Figure, 8x12 inches.

 

19/ Roko's Basilisk, 9.5x13 inches.

 

20/ Family Group, 9.5x13.5 inches

 

Chat GP-3's Artist's Statement

"As an artist, I am intrigued by the intersection of technology and traditional art forms. In my work, I use text-to-image AI to generate unique imagery, which I then translate into drawings and drypoint intaglio prints on 11x15 inch paper. I use a technique of tinting the prints with watercolour, coffee, and tea to add a sense of depth and texture to the final pieces.

I am particularly interested in the ways in which text-to-image AI can be used to create unexpected and surreal imagery. The algorithm's ability to generate images from written descriptions allows me to explore the relationship between language and visual representation in new and exciting ways.

The use of traditional techniques such as drypoint intaglio printing and hand tinting with watercolour, coffee and tea, adds a sense of warmth and humanity to the pieces, and creates a contrast with the cold and calculated nature of the AI-generated imagery. By blending technology and traditional art forms, I aim to create thought-provoking and visually striking works that challenge the viewer's perception of reality."

 

 

 

Yes! These hand-made, hand-inked, hand-pulled and hand-painted fine art human artifacts made at the beginning of the post-human era are for sale. Price is 80.00 Canadian plus 20.00 to post anywhere in the world, payable by cheque, PayPal and within Canada by e-transfer. If you live nearby or in the Comox Valley you can contact me at 250.898.2719 to arrange an appointment to view the prints. If would like to see photographs of prints-in-hand contact me by email (cpowsey@shaw.ca) and I will send photos of the print that interests you - in hand. Example below.

 

 

'Machine intelligence is the last invention that humanity will ever need to make'. Nick Bostrom, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford

 

 

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image

Here are some authentic human observations and opinions from the experience of working with text-to-image AI, and also some thoughts about the technology from the point of view of an occupational fine and applied artist. There are some links in bold font.

Thou Shalt not steal

There seem to be two opposite views of the AI issue; one is that high anxiety is hysteria and moral panic and that this technology is just another technology. The other is that the technology is not like previous technologies, and that we are treating it with a 'normalcy bias' and human prospects will continue as usual. There are presumably many views in between. But given the abilities of text-to-image AI in these very early days, and generally confining speculation of AI's effects on the role of occupational artist in our society, my situational awareness in regard to AI is on the side of high anxiety.

I expect text-to-image AI to be catastrophic for visual artists. AI is not a tool for artists, it's a replacement of them. Artists are a means of production and AI is a vastly more powerful means. I would be enormously happy to be mistaken about this. Currently AI is owned by corporate entities often acting under the guise of being 'research labs' and use 'data laundering' through researchers to steal from human artists with low risk of copyright infringement. Compare AI to Amazon Mechanical Turk ('artificial artificial intelligence), in which human workers are exploited by being poorly paid for micro-tasks that are aggregated by machine. Anyone who is exploitable has value and at least some small degree of recourse to react against their exploiters, particularly when organized. The current text-to-image AI is structured to steal art from human creators for no compensation by scraping the internet of their work to make images. This makes artists less than exploitable. AI thievery, by removing value from human artists leaves them with nothing of value to bargain with for compensation. Contrary to cunning public relations and advertising campaigns I fear there may be no safe 'collaboration' between human artists and machine imagery because the power relationship between them is so asymmetrically in favor of the AI and the corporation behind it.

 

 

 

 

The machine in the ghost

I don't think there is such thing as a human 'AI artist'. Humans are mere operators of a machine intelligence. It's astonishing to consider that humans who have no awareness of how to describe form or make visual art can now prompt an even more unaware machine intelligence to generate astonishing results that can be mistaken for the work of trained human artists. We aren't talking about a sentient artificial intelligence. This is a chilling, empty, oblivious, zombie intelligence that even in these early days mimics the results of human creativity such that experts cannot discern what is AI and what is human with any statistical significance. (Beyond the issue of 'what is art' the nature of this sort of entity fraud has alarming implications for human society and human connection). I might delude myself into believing that I can reliably discern which of two images is human and which is AI. I might convince myself this would be the result of my practical art expertise, experimentation with, and observation of AI foibles. But I would nevertheless be guessing and would probably do no better than anyone else. I suspect that AI itself would do a close to perfect job of recognizing what is AI and what is human.

It's a strange world after all

As a visual artist I aspire to observe and represent the world, and in doing so shift to an uncanny, surreal, non-standard viewpoint in order to emphasize the strangeness of a visual world most take for granted. Being from the 20th century I have believed this aspiration is shared by other artists and is one of the qualities of interesting and, if you will, 'good' art. I discovered that by limiting prompts in AI a similar uncanny quality can more readily be induced. AI art imperfections in these early days make results more surreal and interesting.

'Experts' (not surprisingly in this day and age these are considered to be critics, art historians and gallerists rather than actual working artists) look for 'flaws' in the AI art, as do most people making comparisons. This is odd considering the similar extensive 'flaws' in human art. AI is currently notorious for frequent anatomical distortions but consider and compare the distorted figurative art of great artists like Pontormo or Ingres or more modern artists that further stylize and distort the human form in uncanny surreal ways.

In comparison to AI art, as a trained working artist I (nevertheless subjectively) perceive an enormous amount of human art to be not very good. Whereas it seems an enormous amount of AI art is quite good to very good and produced almost instantly. Because even better results can as quickly be reiterated, AI exponentially outpaces the efforts of the human artists it steals from. A confirmation of this would be to take a look at Instagram hashtags for AI vs. human art. As a working artist I have worked long and hard for days, weeks or months and failed to come up with anything that can be considered 'good' or even acceptable to my (nevertheless subjective) self. For human artists, the exceptional is truly the exception.

Anatomically freakish Ingres drawing.

 

Curationism.

AI produces images/art rapidly and in enormous quantities. It is cheap. It will meet deadlines. It won't be petulant. It won't call in sick. It won't become constipated with creative blocks. It won't succumb to despair. And it won't condescend to whoever requires its 'skills' or services. It will fulfill the much beloved contemporary neo-Duchampian 'curatorial' dream for operators who will be gratified with a sense of delusional authorship for what the AI has generated. 

Why Bother?

I suspect artists 'good' or 'bad', are increasingly thought of as 'content providers', a term which demystifies and undermines traditional notions of art as something 'made special'. As content providers visual artists will never ever be able to compete with the content provider AI. The day may be fast approaching when almost all cultural content is produced by machines that, as a result of having access to personal data, will be able to accurately predict what you desire when you want to look at visual art, watch a movie, read a novel, or listen to music. It will then provide content so tailored to your sensibilities that you will consider it your own, identifying with it as with a brand. This will provide incredibly entertaining content. But that content might also be the painting you imagined you might create. Or the novel you had in mind. Or the movie or music you imagined you'd make. AI might not just steal from past artists, but also future ones. AI might steal from your imagination well before you can create a work of art. (Ever wonder how Amazon manages to so quickly get a product to to the region you live in?) If you undertake a creative process, it will take so long AI can in the meantime make quantities of similar iterations to your content, most of which will be as good and much of which will be better. As an artist I confess that using AI to conjure imagery leaves me with a gnawing question for the future.  'Why bother?'.

Unstable Diffuser

Almost as soon as Midjourney text-to-image AI became publicly available I subscribed and tried using it as a tool, something I believe it was not designed to be (AI being a means of production and replacement for artists). I used AI to generate compelling (for me) 'unnatural natural' forms and 'folk' forms from which to draw. These drypoint prints are a product of rediffusion; diffusion from nature by an artist in their renderings, diffusion from those renderings being 'scraped' from the internet and transmogrified by machine intelligence, and further diffusion by my elaboration and drawing. If diffusion describes broadcasting (from the French) information rediffusion describes rebroadcasting. When I was a child there was a broadcasting company called 'Rediffusion' which rebroadcast radio and television programs on it's networks. I thought the name might make a good title for this 'exhibition'. It's worth comparing the five months it took me to create these drawings and prints from AI reference to the minutes that would be required to generate a similar quantity of AI jpgs that might be similarly compelling and apparently human.

Logo for Associated Rediffusion.

 

File under futile

A way of looking at my simple and straightforward approach to AI is as a morphing search engine providing images not 'of' but 'in the manner of' the sort of thing I've consistently been interested in over my visual life. When I walk on a beach or through the natural world and pick up and collect forms that interest me or that I might like to draw I am a bipedal search engine. Like many artists and illustrators I collected art books and magazines for reference and ripped pages out to put in labelled files in cabinets as searchable accumulated visual reference. More recently I created files in my computer of a vast number of things visual that interest me. For this exhibition I searched for and created jpg files of AI generated material to work from.

All watched over by machines of loving grace 

I've long been interested in AI and it's potential, like so much technology, to either create a utopia or a dystopia that would deprive humans of paid work, meaning and dignity, or worse. I was astonished at AI's early arrival in my own apparently innocuous occupation, the visual arts. I find it worth bearing in mind some of the deeper general motives behind the development of AI, for example the quest for autonomous weapons. The worlds first autonomous weapons already exist and this prospect is so alarming that even some scientists who work with AI have issued warnings about how the technology might unfold. It is easy to envision AI research as an arms race between world powers, not unlike the nuclear arms race but ultimately generating weapons that are easier to produce and proliferate. I'm not adverse to the miracles of technology and science, but I'm from an era when scientists were regarded with a justifiable degree of suspicion for their role in creating technology with unintended consequences and weapons of mass destruction.

Dr. Strangelove, from the Stanley Kubrick film.

 

Erewhon

Luddite is a word that is now generally used in contempt. But I have a fonder attitude toward the Luddites of days past. Their lucid situational awareness provided a correct assessment of the threat of machines to their livelihoods and way of life and despite persecution they made attempts to leverage their weakening position through vandalism of machines. They failed. In the imaginary future Dune's Butlerian Jihad is a holy war in which humans rebel against thinking machines. They succeed. Vandalism and Jihads aside, one of the better hopes for containing 'AI art' might be litigation, considering the original sin of text-to-image AI is theft. At the time of writing these observations a class action lawsuit against some of the larger corporate AI players has been initiated.

Ned Ludd, alleged founder of the Luddites.

 

 

I have little interest in artist's statements, and never want to write something that explains in words what I might be doing with images. I don't want an image to 'say something'. If I want to say something I just say it, or write it, which for me undermines the purpose of making visual art. However, artists and curators statements are a (annoying!) part of the contemporary art experience and so at the top of the page I had the AI text generator Chat GP-3 generate a couple of paragraphs.

My observations about AI are mainly to do with images. It has been a premise for artists that their unique contributions to the visual arts, no matter how modest, are nevertheless special and unique regardless of how well recognized. The plague of unique images released by AI undermines whatever remains of this belief after living my life in an age of mechanical reproduction. But I'm also astonished at how coherently AI writes. Both AI image and text generation seem to me to reveal how algorithmic, cliched, predictable and derivative most human creativity seems, including my own. If delusional overconfidence has been a problem for humans and human artists, a malaise of lack of confidence might be in store for humanity and add to add to the societal problems that AI creates. I suspect AI will erode the generally acknowledged human belief that we are all unique and have something special to offer by our industry and labour.

Scarfolk Council poster from an alternate historical nineteen seventies UK nails it.

 

For the love of humanity

A faint personal hope for the future of human art is that buyers and lovers of art will value what is human over what is machine made. However, history does not bode well in this respect. Consumers already prefer cheaper, profuse, high quality machine made objects over more expensive, scarce, variable quality hand crafted human ones. In the visual arts the number of artists who offer machine produced reproductions is cause for dismay, as is the number of 'art appreciators' who purchase them rather than original art.

In my lifetime, when technology has previously replaced labour it seems to generally to have been the labour of the working classes. Anecdotally it appears that I've observed well paid factory and skilled trades work replaced by robots and CNC machinery. In retrospect there doesn't seem to have been an enormous concern by society in general for displaced blue collar workers who at the least seem to have been treated very shabbily. Will the response to this new technology be different? AI seems as capable of replacing not just artists but also well paid white collar managerial arts technocrats such as curators, art educators and administrators. In society at large teachers, lawyers, programmers, doctors, journalists and many other professional occupations might face massive layoffs and redundancy. AI seems to have the potential to wreak havoc among higher value occupations and therefore might receive greater societal push back.

The future is short

Just prior to writing these notes I cancelled my subscription to Midjourney. In what time remains to me I'm going to be more interested in what human beings do more than machines.

Clive Powsey, January 2023