So I have a question on my mind after witnessing a powerful art show last night at St Louis Community College in Kirkwood. The images were colorful and innovative, the atmosphere filled with anticipation and wonder. The main topic of conversation- Artificial intelligence and the arts.
I'm telling you, the conversations unsettled me a bit. Let me explain .
We walked into a show that was beautifully curated, interesting, innovative and generally cool. As we studied the work, we noticed each one had a Q.R. code. Then we notice people using their phones watching a completely animated version of the art we were looking at. Sound, movement- a small movie within each one. I uploaded the EyeJack app and saw each poster turn into a universe of it's own through my phone. I talked with one of the artists, a Polish woman named Kaja Renkas- who is just every bit as fresh and beautiful and cool as her graphics are- and on an international tour with her work. I talked with her about her art- how she goes about conceptializing , collaboration with other artists, etc. , but I was aware as we were talking that we were speaking from two different planes of understanding as we spoke of the process. Maybe a Gen-X plane and a Millennial plane. While I am a fully hands on artist, from beginning to end, and speak in that language, Kaya is a graphic artist innovator using A.I. in every aspect of her work . She knows what I know, and more, and utilizes it in the most modern way- almost completely on a computer screen. She is very talented at what she does, but we are speaking different languages.
The show was not brought in. No Hauling of framed work, cleaning glass, taking down, wrapping, loading, etc. The show is generated on site with a flash drive, printer, hung, and repeated at the next location. We each got a nifty book, which includes the Q.R. codes so we can open our phones and browse whenever we want. - (I made sure to have Kaya sign mine with her actual handwritten signature)
So, what's at the heart of my unsettled feeling here? A conversation with a friend and potter who spoke about the artist becoming obsolete in the face of A.I. Now, you may say as I did, That's ludicrous! Our hands only become more essential as we are engulfed in an artificial world. But, as he pointed out, the artificial world is able to generate the art of a human hand, even with the imperfections and nuances that make it human. So that there will be a time when we do not know the difference. Will there be that time when we cannot distinguish between what human hands made and what a computer made? What happens when that time comes? Besides how the artist is supposed to make a living, what happens to the world? Will there come a time when the spirit and soul of the artist becomes obsolete? When we can hop online and make any artwork come to life with the click of a button, will we do that because it's easier, customized, costs less and no one knows the difference? What happens to humanity when we cross that line? When the human being and computer are going head to head and the computer beats us at our own game? Well, if you didn't know already, or were burying your head in the sand as I have been;
It. Is. Here.
Join me in brushing the sand out of my eyes.
Could people in the 19th century understand how their world would change once they condensed time by using automobiles instead of horses to travel? Were they able to anticipate the change in their state of mind when they no longer heard the sounds of nature and felt the changes in weather as they traveled? When their days and lives sped up from traveling on foot and by horse to traveling by car, and then airplane? I believe everyone was excited by the innovation, the ease, the fun. And there are lots of good things about traveling faster and more comfortably. But did they think of what was being left behind? And how it would affect evey aspect of their children's lives as a species?
The human state of mind in relationship to time and space. The way we interact with the world around us. The nurturing of our spirit through time and nature and silence with our thoughts. These concepts and changes are as relevant now as they were then. The massive changes that came socially, economically, culturally and spiritually could not be quantified or anticipated with the building of the automobile, just as now we have a world opening up around us that few are able to comprehend fully.
I hope that the artist is not left behind. I hope our humanity is not left behind. I believe that the human spirit can and will overcome the difficulties sure to attend the age of A.I. that is upon us. But it will take all of us, it will take our very human hearts and faith and souls and hands. Let's hang on and ride this thing utilizing the light that only a human being can manifest. May God help us.
And it was a really great show.