Artificial intelligence is creating increasingly sophisticated images. But what does it mean for the art world? Gilbert and George, Gillian Wearing, Mat Collishaw, Elizabeth Price, Polly Morgan and Lindsey Mendick found out
For more than 30,000 years we have been the only art-making species on Earth, give or take the odd paint-throwing Neanderthal or chimpanzee. Art is the oldest and most spectacular triumph of human consciousness, from Lascaux to the Sistine Chapel. But a new generation of artificial intelligence (AI) art software may be about to end that. It will whip you up a Picasso or a Turner in an instant, or apply their styles to any theme you picture, from Liz Truss dancing in a supermarket to a brawl in a 1970s disco.
Stable Diffusion and competitors such as DALL-E 2 go far beyond previous claims for AI art. Easily accessible online, and in that sense open to full public scrutiny, they create precise, rich, convincing images in response to a typed-in text – for example “a sad cat in a mountainous landscape in the style of Turner”, or whatever combination of styles, keywords and subjects takes your fancy. Or you can ask more sidelong and existential questions, such as my request for “a photograph of a human”, which produced a bare-chested man who could be a museum exhibit of early homo sapiens – except for his mysterious earphone-like cables. For the expert there are others: “I’ve been experimenting in Wombo Dream, Midjourney and Google Colab/Disco Diffusion,” says the artist Mat Collishaw.