It’s easy to understand why people are so excited by ChatGPT and AI-generated art when you remember that the average person hasn’t read a book since high school.
To press a button and watch beautiful images and prose materialise from thin air must feel like magic.
People are discovering an ability to create that they gave up on when they were 15. They’re finally able to create something for the first time.
But there's a problem. Generating art with the push of a button lets you overlook a simple but crucial truth - art isn’t the outcome.
When you hear people critique art they talk about the colour choice and the canvas. The weight of each brush stroke and the way the brush strokes are constructed. They talk about the era the artist grew up in, what her influences and inspirations might have been. They talk about how long the painting took and how the artist kept it hidden. Each one of these decisions is an insight into the mind of the artist.
Every artistic decision is, in itself, the art. The art isn’t what you see in the canvas, it’s what was in the mind of the creator.
When you look at great writers what makes their work poignant isn’t the fact that they strung 12 words into a sentence. Every word you read is a product of the interplay of three psyches - the author, the narrator/character, and the reader.
When you read you’re simultaneously judging the words of the narrator and the vision of the author. And you feel the effect of the emotions they try to evoke and the themes they’ve layered into their work.
Art isn’t the output, it’s the process.
AI right now is democratising output - but it doesn’t yet have the fidelity to democratise process. AI art tells you nothing other than what it says on the surface.
Great art is measured by its depth of judgement. To judge art is to judge the mind of the artist.
It’s the difference between buying a vase from IKEA which tumbled out of a perfect production pipeline, and buying a unique piece from an artisan who carved icons from his families lineage into the piece, in a style taught to him by other local artisans, using techniques refined over generations.
You can either buy a perfect receptacle or a human story that you will point to every time you have guests over.
Art isn’t dead because you can produce cheap and convincing facsimiles of human effort.
Art survived the printing press, the photograph, the motion picture and the photocopier.
There is a market for mass-produced hotel art and 3D printed sculptures. But there will always be a market for art steeped in human lore - art that was wrested with and survived the fickleness of persistence and imagination. Because art is the medium, not the output.