AI and the arts… opposition or augmentation?

May 25, 2023

Artificial intelligence seems to grow more omnipresent by the day. Anyone with a glancing interest in current affairs has likely stumbled across the burgeoning field. From facial recognition, to auto-generated schoolwork, to medical diagnostics and even writing ominous fortune cookies; the potential of this technology seems limitless. 

The conundrums of ethics, policy and practicality that accompany this field of technology are no less expansive.

One could be forgiven for feeling a little, well, ‘bamboozled’ by the whole matter. And if you’ll excuse the clumsy segue, the nature of our work at Bamboozled Productions has us pondering the issue through a decidedly arts-focused lens…

AI and the Arts

Unsurprisingly, my instinctual loyalties always lie with artists and the protection of their art. Stories like this one from the Sydney Morning Herald alarm and agonise me; to summarise, AI-based apps like Lensa are entering widespread use, generating self-portraits in perfect imitation of known artists’ distinctive style, commission-free. It’s little wonder the imitations are so spot on; the AI is trained on a database of those artists’ work, and of course, financial kickbacks for the original creator are non-existent.

The future of the arts in a world where the artist’s labour can be duplicated in a fraction of the time, seems certain to devalue art. Yet is it truly so simple? I’m heartened by certain analogies raised often in this conversation: the birth of the camera did not spell the death of painting, any more than the microwave meal replaced fine dining, and if anything, advancements in music recording technology have only strengthened our appetites for live music over the decades. 

To consume art is to connect with the human creative spirit. Certainly, there are examples of AI-generated art, and increasingly even theatre, that stir emotion and aesthetic delight. Yet I’d argue that still we’re connecting with the human behind it: we marvel, struck with awe and apprehension at mankind’s steps forward with technology. We recognise that a different skill set is being harnessed, yet we ping at the creativity of the mind behind the prompts. 

‘I could have made that myself,’ has been a tired criticism faced by artists over the years. 

‘But you didn’t,’ the only suitable response. 

Ultimately, art is about the human will to create, far more than it is about the capacity. Whether AI can capture the intangible: connection, recognition, shared experience, unspoken understanding– remains to be seen.

That AI is a powerful tool, and one with an exciting role to play in the arts, is undeniable. I look to this provoking conversation via The Theatre Times for a more optimistic vision of how AI might well continue to expand artistic horizons, with the artist still an active agent in the creative process.

Long may we create.

Louise Clarke

74 Upper Sturt Road, Upper Sturt, SA 5156 Australia

P: +61 (0) 404 834 589

We acknowledge the Kaurna People as the Traditional Owners of the land on which we work. We recognise that this land always was and always will be Aboriginal land and we pay our respects to Elders, past, present and emerging.