The GardenDespatches from The Satyrs’ Forest

Dear Tate Modern, i have a very cool idea for an art exhibit that i think you would really like. P.S. I am not a crackpot.

A man looking at two versions of Caspar David Friedrich’s “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog” — the original, and a noticeably less good AI version

There’s been a lot of kerfuffle in the art world as of late about the ethics and capabilities of AI art (previously), and as Britain’s leading institution for contemporary art, you seem like just the right people to bring it to the public. My proposal is simple, but effective — let man and machine compete on equal footing.

Eight or so talented human artists will be given a prompt to work from. At the same time, the same prompt will be given to a state-of-the-art machine-learning algorithm, like Midjourney or Stable Diffusion. In the gallery, the two works — one made by metal, one made by flesh — will be hung side by side, and the audience will not be told which is which.

Next to each diptych will sit two bins where visitors can dispense plastic tokens (like the ones they have at Asda) to vote on which painting is their favourite. At the end of the exhibition’s run (or perhaps updating live; your call), the votes will be tallied up, and we’ll finally find out whether us or our creations are the better artists.

If you really wanted to provoke, you could ask the humans to provide you with a list of every painting they’ve ever seen, every photo they’ve ever taken, every film they’ve ever watched, and every song they’ve ever heard. Then you put that big list up on the wall, tell the visitors that Advanced Biological Neural Learning Algorithms have taken quote-unquote “inspiration” from all of these copyrighted works, and put to vote whether you should contact the rightsholders and ask them to sue. It would be only fair.

Chære and regards, Xanthe. P.S. — I am not a crackpot.

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