The art of parallel processors | Bis

SSince the 1950s, scientists have been studying various problems related to artificial intelligence (AI). However, it has only recently started to have significant appeal, coinciding with a golden age of growth in every industry we know. This is to enable robots to mimic human actions, especially cognitive behavior. AI algorithms are now used in various industries, from healthcare to retail and e-commerce, food technology, banking and financial services, logistics, transport and travel, real estate , entertainment and games.

AI has also made its appearance in the field of art. With the advent of generative art in the 1950s, visual artists began to experiment with new technological concepts and computer graphics. Artists like Manfred Mohr and Vera Molná pioneered computer art by studying aesthetic ideas inspired by science and creating images derived from the subjectivity of the artistic process. Rashid Rana, a renowned and admired visual artist, originally trained as a painter, later pioneered a unique form of digital art using AI-based algorithms to translate his ideas through deconstructed photographs. Since then, his non-prescriptive approach has earned him numerous global accolades. Through eye-catching, pixel-perfect photo mosaics, Rana’s works show a contemporary element of illusion and surprises; a more complex message is revealed later – as a visual strategy. Diaspora contemporary artist Saks Afridi’s new volume of NFT-enabled works, Woven Portals, uses artificially intelligent codes. The series mixes the geometry of Persian carpets with the navigation technologies of spaceships.

As Afridi claims, each work of art is created by hand with the help of technology, resulting in a collaboration between man and machine, tradition and technology. Abdul Rehman, also known as AB, is an emerging artist based in Lahore who incorporates augmented reality into his painted canvases. AB combines his childhood love for games with his passion for painting to tell compelling stories, using humor as a defense mechanism to expose social hardships hidden under the colorful and humorous gazes of naïve yet physically exhausting games. Portrait of Edmond de Belamy (2018) exceeded expectations at Christie’s New York, selling for $350,000.

The painting If That Is The Proper Term is part of a collection of portraits of the fictional Belamy family made by AI software taught by Obvious, a Paris-based collective.

When it comes to the potential of artificial intelligence in creative processes, the sky is the limit. Scientists and experimental artists have increasingly used the approach of forming GANs (generative adversarial networks) on a wide range of images, from photos of cats and puppies to paintings by historical masters. San Francisco-based Uber software engineer Phillip Wang recently introduced the StyleGAN-based website thispersondoesnotexist.com.

The only thing on the website is an AI-generated face. AI creates a whole new look from the start with every page refresh. It should be noted that taking photos of imaginary individuals was a by-product of the original goal: to teach artificial intelligence (AI) surveillance devices to identify real and fake faces. With a recent make-do in the world of digital art and the synchronous cascades of NFT, Crypto Art, a relatively new form of AI-generated art, has become immensely popular. This takes a person’s typed prompts and converts them into an image, using Mid Journey accessible through a Discord server, Google’s DeepDream, OpenAI’s DALL-E 2, Night Café, Hotpot, WOMBO Dream, or one of many applications and open-source, client-side servers. They can all imitate many styles of contemporary art, as long as images from a particular artist or art movement are available on the Internet with partial or complete metadata.

Despite the progress, after very recently winning first place in the fine art category at the Colorado State Fair, an AI-generated artwork, Space Opera Theater, sparked controversy that overwhelmed many lively discussions on Discord, Twitter and the exciting virtual domains of the metaverse. Some have argued for it while others have said that this phenomenon is the disappearance of traditional art and artists. The outcry reminds me of several eras in the history of art and design.

La Fontaine, a ready-made work of art by Marcel Duchamp in 1917, consisted of a porcelain urinal marked R. Mutt. They are, according to Duchamp, “ordinary objects raised to the dignity of works of art by the choice of the artist. The fountain was then taken to Alfred Stieglitz’s studio and the image was published in the Dada periodical The Blind Man. After more than a century, art historians and avant-garde thinkers consider the work a key milestone in 20th-century art. A similar uproar erupted when the camera was invented. Many criticized it, saying it lacked a “soul”. Look at us now. Photography is a well-known art form and a common hobby. The extraordinary fusion of the century was a smartphone with a camera.

Design software does not itself produce art, just as televisions do not produce shows or movies and newspapers do not make the news. The human mind behind the tools produces the content. Generating an exciting visual would require “refining prompts” as a skill. There was outrage that a prompter could protect these images. This technique exploits random artworks from dead or living artists without permission, paying them no royalties for their initial ideas and efforts to create dynamic visuals. By this logic, any music composer who uses midi controllers cannot claim credit for their work. After all, they don’t play anything; they provide midi cues for a computer to decipher.

What should an artist or designer do? Boycott cars/bikes as they only state horsepower but don’t use actual horsepower? Saks Afridi asserts that “this automation will not replace artists. This will help artists express themselves. It’s a great new tool to help us communicate, but it can’t speak independently. Humans love art/design that others have created or had a direct and engaged role in. For now, we are wired like this. Over time, this may change. To replace humans, artificial intelligence should consider subjective and objective processes realistically. And it’s about the illogical and the unpredictable – acting like humans, not just to think and calculate but also to design and associate and ‘artifice’ too. Robots will not replace humans; they will make their work much more human. Robots will do jobs that are complex, degrading, demanding, dangerous, boring, as Sabine Hauert, co-founder of Robohub, puts it.

We can certainly offer robots competing in the Olympics while building highly fictional worlds under the umbrella of speculative art/design/architecture. Fiction requires more exciting visuals and promising narratives, and it’s safe to produce them using the latest technology.


The writer is an art/design critic. He heads the Visual Communication Design Department at Mariam Dawood School of Visual Arts & Design, Beaconhouse National University, Lahore.

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