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Arty-ficial Intelligence



Digital Art Gallery, generated by MidJourney


How far can AI take us in the world of art making? What does it mean for artists, collectors and companies to adopt AI? These are some of the reoccurring questions with the rise of AI image generators. We had the privilege to discuss AI's future and its potential with Prof. Dr Mark Coeckelbergh.


Interviewer: Etienne Verbist (EV), Chief Curator Officer, Block Meister.


Interviewee: Mark Coeckelbergh (MC), Vice Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Education of the University of Vienna, High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence for the European Commission and the Austrian Council on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence.


EV: What do you see as the most interesting and promising application of artificial intelligence in the art market?


MC: The first opportunity is AI as a part of the artistic process. AI as a creator of art. We are just at the very beginning of that. I do not see AI taking over from the artist, but more of a collaboration between the artist and the AI. We are just at the beginning and can expect surprising results there.


Another opportunity is AI used in natural language processing. For the art market, it could be interesting if people could talk with an AI, and use it as a guide. AI could help collectors find the right platform or artwork because the time to just go to a city to view a few galleries is over. The digital environment is so complex, and we lack the right kind of gateways to find what we want. There is just too much. It's overload. AI could help us navigate to where we want to go.


EV: When an AI creates, what does it do that hasn't been done or cannot be done by a human?


MC: So far, many applications have been more like imitating humans, and that's not so interesting. Beyond imitation, there will be creations through pattern recognition, for example. Machines also do things that we don't expect. I believe that there needs to be some human input. It will have to be collaborative between man and machine.

When we're talking about the art market, I can imagine that there could be some input from the public or the community of art buyers in the process. The role of AI will be to make sense of big data and then have a model from which it can produce something aesthetically pleasing. AI is about working within parameters or surprising us, which is coming up with something that goes out of this parameter, on purpose.


EV: Do you think we will reach a point where human artists become unnecessary?


MC: Well, they're not necessary for a technical sense but I think it's good to involve them because I still think that great art needs some human creativity. At the same time, the traditional model where the artist is seen as in control of the artwork has been questioned since ancient times. Philosophically it doesn't make sense to see the artist in full control, the “master” so to speak. He is more of a participant in a creative process. And so will be Artificial Intelligence, a co-participant in the creative process, in which the art becomes what it becomes.


EV: Could AI help us understand why do people like certain artworks more than others?


MC: It is already happening in the music industry for example, and it is not so different in the visual arts. But it comes with a warning: We should try and let ourselves be surprised by what kind of things AI comes up with. We could let an AI discover the parameters about us that we are unaware of, and be open to see what is recommended.


Of course, AI is often seen as a threat to humanism. But we can have both. We can have humanistic interpretations and explanations and at the same time, look deep inside ourselves through all kinds of methods that we have, including psychoanalysis and philosophical reflection. In addition, it could be interesting to look at art appreciation from the AI side and see what comes out from there.


EV: What about ethical issues? What is it that we haven't considered yet about applications of AI in art?


MC: The concern is that we could see AI as an artist that just wants to please people. When the art market is reduced to that kind of pressure, it becomes a bubble, when everyone is to sell, not to surprise and not make something new and creative. One could say like social media platforms have become echo chambers. Aesthetically and creatively, it will reduce art to a commodified commercial product. It will just be about the money.

This will be an important ethical problem that will affect the future of art and therefore humanity.



This is an exclusive interview with Prof. Dr Mark Coeckelbergh. If you have questions you would like to ask, do not hesitate to contact us.