Painting, quilting, and sculpting were some of the categories in which participants may compete for awards in this year’s annual art competition at the Colorado State Fair.
However, one participant, Jason M. Allen from Pueblo West, Colorado, did not submit his contribution using a lump of clay or a brush to create it. Midjourney is an artificial intelligence tool that can transform lines of text into hyper-realistic images, and it was used by him to generate the image.
It was one of the first artificial intelligence-generated pieces to win such a prize, and it set off a fierce backlash from artists who accused Mr. Allen of, essentially, cheating in the competition. Mr. Allen’s piece was titled “Théatre D’opéra Spatial,” and it won the blue ribbon in the fair’s contest for emerging digital artists.
On Wednesday, when Mr. Allen was contacted by phone, he justified the job that he had done. He said that he had made it abundantly apparent that his work, which was submitted under the name “Jason M. Allen through Midjourney,” was developed using A.I., and that he had not fooled anybody about the sources of his creations. He claimed that he had made this statement in the previous paragraph.
Artwork created by artificial intelligence has been around for many years. But new software was created in 2018 with names like DALL-E 2, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion, which enables even rank amateurs to produce intricate, abstract, or photorealistic pieces of art by merely putting a few lines into a text box.
Many human artists have been reasonably anxious about their own prospects as a result of the proliferation of art-creation applications; they question why anybody would pay for art when they themselves had the ability to create it. They have also sparked heated discussions over the morality of artificial intelligence (AI)-generated art, as well as resistance from those who argue that these apps are fundamentally a high-tech form of plagiarism.
This year, Mr. Allen, who is 39 years old, started experimenting with art that was made by artificial intelligence. He is the owner of a company called Incarnate Games, which specialises in making tabletop games, and he was interested to see how the latest generation of artificial intelligence picture generators would stack up against the human artists whose works he commissioned.
This past summer, he was given an invitation to a Discord chat server where people were testing Midjourney. This application takes words and transforms it into unique visuals via a complicated process called as “diffusion.” Users send a message to Midjourney, in which they input a string of words; a few seconds later, the bot responds with a picture.
Mr. Allen developed an unhealthy obsession with the topic, to the point that he produced hundreds of photos while marvelling at how lifelike they were. It did not seem to matter what he wrote, since Midjourney was able to complete it.
Eventually, Mr. Allen had the bright idea to enter one of his Midjourney compositions into the Colorado State Fair’s “digital art/digitally modified photography” category, which was one of the categories offered at the fair. He got the picture printed on canvas at a local store and then presented it to the panel of judges.
After a few weeks had passed, Mr. Allen was wandering around the fairgrounds in Pueblo when he came upon a blue ribbon that was hung up next to his sculpture. He was awarded the $300 first-place prize for winning the category.
Following his victory, Mr. Allen shared a picture of the work that he had been awarded on the Discord server for Midjourney. It was posted on Twitter, where it immediately provoked a heated debate among users.
The debate that follows the introduction of innovative artistic processes is nothing new. The creation of the camera was seen as a debasement of human talent by many artists, and they reacted with revulsion when it was first introduced. In the 20th century, purists criticised digital editing tools and computer-assisted design programmes for the same reason: they required too little talent from their human colleagues.
Some reviewers are of the opinion that the current generation of artificial intelligence tools are distinct not just due to the fact that they can create stunning works of art with very little effort on the user’s part. It’s necessary to their operation. Apps like DALL-E 2 and Midjourney are created by scraping millions of photos from the open web, then training computers to detect patterns and correlations in those images and produce new ones in the same manner. This process is called “image scraping.” This suggests that artists who publish their works to the internet may inadvertently be assisting their automated competition to hone their craft.