AI Mona Lisa explains it all

AI Mona Lisa explains it all

THE Mona Lisa is small. Less than three feet tall and about two feet wide, it hangs tiny in the largest exhibition hall at the Frances Louvre Museum. And in the last couple of weeks or so, some AI vigilante artists have decided that it should be bigger, much bigger. They’re making it using a beta tool in Adobe Photoshop called the Generative Fill. It was launched late last month and allows users to fill, augment or expand an image using AIthink ChatGPT but for Photoshop. (He uses Adobe’s Firefly AI models, which are trained on his stock photography.) Amateur and professional editors alike can use a text prompt to, for example, add clouds to an image of a blue sky or widen a photo of a beach to include additional beach, computer rendered.

In a new enlarged version of Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait created with the tool, the pictorial subject occupies only a small part of the canvas. There she is, familiar as ever, only she is surrounded by an ominous landscape. And this is all. The lower half of her body is still missing. Another post takes Vincent Van Goghs Bedroom AND turns it into a larger bedroom. Perhaps the most outrageous of the bunch is based on Piet Mondrians Composition with red blue and yellowsurrounding the famous minimalist work with additional rectangles of various sizes. Others have used generative fill to widen classic album covers OR film shooting.

People got very angry about these expansions. They pointed out that the generated images are missing an important point: the artists compose and intentionally limit their works. Da Vinci painted a portrait not because he was incapable of painting a landscape, but because he chose to paint a portrait. The revised jobs, they complained, weren’t even good! If you were to expand the file Mona Lisaone might at least have the decency to do so give her some legs.

But the AI Mona Lisa it’s the perfect metaphor for where we are with generative AI. We can quickly and easily do things that once required a lot of time and skill. Reinvent the Mona Lisa from a broader perspective it has been possible ever since era A Mona Lisa; he would only require real craftsmanship, paint, a canvas and so on. Now a computer can do it for you in seconds. But why? Was there something wrong with the original? Mona Lisa? Even if you’re using the tools for real, there’s a good chance their output is derivative or boring, because Generative AI is basically about remixing rather than creating something entirely new.

Most of the use cases for Generative AI being sold to us right now are like this. We are told this artificial intelligence will completely change the world as we know it Bill Gates and other technologists say it is as revolutionary as the invention of the internet. Artificial intelligence is the technology of the world he always wanted, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman tweeted last month. And then we are offered applications that are far short of changing the world. Bing is integrating artificial intelligence into its search functionality so that users can well, what exactly? Finding answers in a different way? Meanwhile people are already losing their jobs to chatbots.

AI enthusiasts will gasp to you about how ChatGPT can draft work emails or render PowerPoint presentations in seconds. But to what end? People are right to ask if we really need more email, just like they’re right to ask if we really need a bigger Mona Lisa. All of this computational firepower is being directed to uses that feel more like corporate gimmicks than anything substantial.

Which isn’t to say that AI applications won’t change the world one day, or that we won’t be able to harness its power in ways that move us. It’s just that the AI ​​hype currently exceeds its capabilities. Fight the viral Mona Lisa tweeted the other big AI story last week: an open letter signed by hundreds of experts warning that, unchecked, AI could pose an extinction-level threat on par with nuclear war. Together, these stories offer a perfect synopsis of the moment: AI will kill us or bore us to no end riffs on Edward Hopper.

If there’s a silver lining to this story, it’s that loads of millions of people, if you trust the analytics on Twitter, are looking at the art. That’s a good thing, Andrs Sznt, museum consultant and author of The future of the museum, he told me, even if these people are only superficially involved in the works. When is the last time you remember people raging online about the compositions of Renaissance paintings? Sznt was cautiously optimistic about the possibilities of AI art as a new medium, while acknowledging the thorny legal and ethical issues he raises.

And the idea of ​​expanding the frame isn’t necessarily a bad one. What Twitter’s interpretations lack is a distinct point of view, the kind that human artists continually incorporate into their work. It’s exactly the same painting, a little larger, Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Jerry Saltz told me. I’d like to see what’s behind the wings of a Picasso, a Mona Lisa, of a Michael Jackson album. It’s all interesting. But their answer is not. Saltz’s critique of an AI-art installation at the Museum of Modern Art in February came to mind: if AI is to create meaningful art, he argued, it will have to provide its own vision and vocabulary, the own sense of space, of color. , and shape.

In this particular case, the computer only tramples on the artist’s perspective. The AI ​​seems to have missed that in the original Mona Lisa, we clearly see a small column on a parapet on the left side of the painting, Tina Ryan, curator of the upcoming Buffalo AKG Art Museum, wrote in an email. The sitter’s sitting in a loggia, Ryan said, could be a symbol of Leonardo’s fascination with the tension between man and nature. AI can provide renderings of nature, but without any creative intent they lack tension.

Before the Photoshop update, the Mona Lisa was in the news last month for a completely different reason. An Italian historian named Silvano Vinceti claims to have found the ruins of the bridge featured in the background of the painting, possibly solving a long-standing mystery. People curious about what lies beyond the canvas can now make a pilgrimage to the hills outside the Tuscan town of Laterina, home to just 3,500 people. Or they could simply ask a generative AI tool to make its best guess, close their eyes, and choose to inhabit the bleak landscape they dream of.

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