Thoughts & Insights

Thank Heavens for Banksy

Can artificial intelligence create art? It’s difficult to imagine that this will ever be the case. To create art you need the consciousness of a free spirit. Whether artificial intelligence will ever dispose of the consciousness of a free spirit seems to me highly unlikely. If this should happen then human intelligence and creative power as we know them today will have transitioned to a symbiotic coexistence with artificial intelligence. Will this ever happen? If it should then we shall have to wait at least a few more decades before it arrives.

And yet recently for the very first time a painting generated by algorithms has been sold – for no less than 432,000 dollars. A painting generated by the pictorial data of various famous paintings by a Parisian group that goes by the name of “Obvious Art”. The result is a nebulous indefinite article presented in a classical frame that could have come from the 19th century. The sales price is the result of some individual’s phantasy of increasing value and has nothing to do with the quality of the work. The point of the exercise was to invest superfluous capital in the first painting produced by artificial intelligence. This has absolutely nothing to do with art. This at least is how Peter Kruse would probably have put it, following his line of argument in the statement he delivered on the 5th Anniversary of the MINDKISS Project.

Banksy´s coup just two weeks ago of his Girl with Balloon picture that self-destructed the moment it was sold at auction is a brilliant coup that plainly reveals the absurdity of the commercialised art world and one that hopefully will help change the ways the public think about art and the art world. Not only was the already absurd sales price of 1.4 million in any way negated by the destruction of the painting but actually increased to over 2 million. The buyer has every reason to thank their lucky stars. And we too are fortunate in having such a figure as Banksy who can show us all that the workings of the art market mirror those of the stock exchange. It’s not about art but about speculation and profit.

And this is precisely the point where Banksy shows himself to be such a brilliant debunker – because in such a system is a shredded picture necessarily a worthless picture? This case shows that the very contrary is true – it increases, even substantially increases, in value. And so the shredded picture becomes a kind of magnifying glass through which we can view the absurdities of the commercial art market close-up and as they happen.

To fully appreciate this you have to know that Banksy is a street artist who attaches great importance to the impact that his graffiti and art performances have yet who refuses to take part in the speculative games of the art market. His independence is much more important to him than fame and riches.

When he does make an exception and sell, then the transaction becomes enveloped in a kind of aurora of enlightenment. Take, for instance the time when an anonymous seller at a stand in New York’s Central Park sold passers-by original Banksy works for 60 dollars. Whoever bought a picture by an unknown artist from this stall did so not because they were buying a “Banksy with expectations of a rapid increase in its value” but because they were buying a picture they liked. Banksy taped this action and published the video – much to the chagrin of all art dealers who had missed this unique opportunity to make a killing. Unquestionably, they would have dearly loved to resell these works at a vast profit.

Banksy´s coup was perfect. In its unique way it is a clear demonstration of how the market functions, how it twists and turns, adapts to circumstances and eventually triumphs. Whether you find this good or bad is another question. But it’s clear that this is how it is. The goal which was to reveal this has been achieved. The whole world is talking about this stunt and it won’t be forgotten so quickly.

Apparently such forces were not as strong as the magnetic attraction of the art market on which the picture became yet another item for auction. Just who will profit from the sale of pictures produced by artificial intelligence is a completely new question in this system. Because at the moment there is always human intelligence behind artificial intelligence, human intelligence that programs the whole show and thus is its prime originator.



The header pic shows an excerpt of the signature of this very first AI-painting

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