Is AI-generated art really art?

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Artificial intelligence is breaking the internet and the art industry at the same time.

AI can train itself on a vast collection of digitised artworks to produce new images.

But are those images really art, and who owns them? That’s an ongoing debate in the art world.

While some embrace the rapidly developing technology, others are not enthused.

Critics claim AI is copying and processing millions of copyright-protected images without a license to create its own art.

Some artists behind AI artworks are displaying their works in Californian museums.

In Los Angeles, Turkish-born Refik Anadol’s artworks are featured at the Jeffrey Deitch art gallery.

The work transforms publicly available images into moving, abstract digital works on huge monitors throughout the exhibit.

Anadol says he and his team carefully curate the data they use to ensure there are no copyright issues, and he emphasises that his work is “AI-assisted” not “AI-generated,” with his team still in control of the final piece.

“The work is using generative AI and it’s using a custom algorithm that I’ve been developing the last 10 years. And since I coined the term ‘data painting’, I’m trying to create artworks with machine learning algorithms, specifically AI,” says Anadol.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, arguably the heart of the current AI development movement, the new Misalignment Museum takes a different approach.

Its exhibition imagines a post-apocalyptic world where AI apologizes for “destroying humanity.”

“It’s filled mostly with a lot of art that is able to just demonstrate what AI tech is capable of,” says Audrey Kim, founder and curator of the Misalignment Museum.

The museum, in the city’s hip Mission District, features artworks ranging from “spambots,” robotic cans of ham which type out original pig-themed stories, to an endless conversation between chatbots mimicking the voices of German director Werner Herzog and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek.

Some “old school” artists, like Oakland-based, Indian-born painter Sukanya Sakar, prefer to look at the bright side of technology-assisted art but hopes future commercial applications can be fine-tuned so artists can more easily opt-out.

“There are artists who paint for months and weeks. But there’s always a difference between what is a hand-drawn painting versus an AI-generated (one). I’m hoping art lovers would differentiate that and buy art or think of art like: ‘OK, this is well-thought through art versus this is AI-generated art,” she says.

Sarkar also says AI art often looks amateurish and still has difficulties replicating certain objects and body parts, like fingers and feet.

She says she believes there will always be a place for art made by the human hand.

“Refik Anadol: Living Paintings” runs until 29 April at the Los Angeles Jeffrey Deitch Gallery.

The Misalignment Museum in San Francisco is open until 1 May.

AP video shot by: Haven Daley/Eugene Garcia