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Research articles

Vol. 1 (2023)

The Work of Art in the Age of AI Image Generation: Aesthetics and Human-Technology Relations as Process and Performance

May 11, 2023


AI image generators such as DALL-E 2 are deep learning models that enable users to generate digital images based on natural language text prompts. The impressive and often surprising results leave many people puzzled: is this art, and if so, who created the art: the human or the AI? These are not just theoretical questions; they have practical ethical and legal implications, for example when raising authorship and copyright issues. This essay offers two conceptual points of entrance that may help to understand what is going on here. First it briefly discusses the question whether this this art and who or what is the artist based on aesthetics, philosophy of art, and thinking about creativity and computing. Then it asks the question regarding human-technology relations. It shows that existing notions such as instrument, extension, and (quasi) other are insufficient to conceptualize the use of this technology, and proposes instead to understand what happens as processes and performances, in which artistic subjects, objects, and roles emerge. It is concluded that based on most standard criteria in aesthetics, AI image generation can in principle create art, and that the process can be seen as poietic performances involving humans and non-humans potentially leading to the emergence of new artistic (quasi)subjects and roles in the process.