AI-generated picture wins US art prize, draws flak from artists

This year, the Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition gave out prizes in all the usual categories: painting, quilting, sculpture.
But one entrant, Jason M Allen of Colorado, didn’t make his entry with a brush or a lump of clay. He created it with Midjourney, an AI programme that turns lines of text into hyper-realistic graphics. Allen’s work, “Theatre D’opera Spatial,” won the fair’s contest for emerging digital artists along with a $300 prize – making it one of the first AI-generated pieces to win such a prize. The win set off a fierce backlash from artists who accused him of, essentially, cheating.
In an interview on Wednesday, Allen defended his work. He said he had made clear that his work – which was submitted under the name “Jason Allen via Midjourney” – was created using AI and that he hadn’t deceived anyone about its origins. “I’m not going to apologise for it,” he said. “I won, and I didn’t break any rules.”
AI-generated art has been around for years. But tools released this year – with names like DALL-E 2, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion – have made it possible for rank amateurs to create complex, abstract or photorealistic works simply by typing a few words into a text box. These apps have made many human artists nervous about their own futures; why would anyone pay for art, they wonder, when they could generate it themselves? They have also generated fierce debates about the ethics of AI-generated art, and opposition from people who claim that these apps are essentially a high-tech form of plagiarism.
After his win, Allen posted a photo of his prize work to the Midjourney Discord chat. It made its way to Twitter, where it sparked a backlash. “We’re watching the death of artistry unfold right before our eyes,” one Twitter user wrote. “This is so gross,” another wrote. Others defended Allen, saying using AI was no different from using Photoshop or other digital image-manipulation tools.
Olga Robak, an official for the Colorado Department of Agriculture, which oversees the fair, said the category’s rules allow any “artistic practice that uses digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process”. The two judges did not know that Midjourney was an AI programme, she said, but both told her that they would have awarded Allen the top prize even if they had.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.