Like it or not, artificial intelligence is set to revolutionize the world we live in. In past articles, we have looked at how AI is set to change the movie business, from both the production, and marketing side of things. In this article, we want to see if it is possible that AI will start new art movements of its own?

Let’s get started.

It is perhaps best to start to explore this question by looking at where AI technology currently stands in terms of creativity.

AI is already hard at work helping to improve the way we do things. As the famous AI quote goes, “AI can enable humans to focus on the parts of their role that delivers most value”.

Examples of this include AI-assisted moviemaking tools. These valuable tools are already hard at work helping to restore degraded silent films, AI editing tools that quickly catalog footage and link it with its corresponding sound footage, and actor suggestion tools which provide a range of suggested actors for any specific role.

When it comes to the creative side of things, AI has made big headlines thanks to the creation of the first ever AI actor, who is set to debut in a movie very soon. Other notable headlines include the first ever AI generated script that was turned into a movie called Sunspring (2016), and the use of machine learning to create 3D animated dream visions, often only from a single two dimensional photograph.

Indeed, it is the latter technology that provides us with a link or glimpse into where the next step in AI “creativity” is going. NFTs or Non-fungible tokens, are blockchain-based tokens that allow artists to verify the originality and issue number of a piece of art. While certain high profile artists have jumped on this new technology, it is the art being generated by AI computer programs that is the most interesting part of the new NFT craze.

CryptoPunk 7804, a piece of computer generated art, sold for the equivalent of about $7.6 million in Ethereum, a record for AI-generated artwork according to Georg Bak, a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Digital Art. While the record for a human artist generated NFT is $70 million, eyes are all on the AI artists to see where their creativity can take us from here.

More Surreal Than Surreal?

As most of the current NFTs attest to, it is inevitable, given the current limits of machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies, that the first new movement that any computer system is going to start will be labeled as surreal in nature.

Indeed, the most popular NTF artist, Beeple, whose artwork holds the price record at the time of writing, works very much in the medium of surrealism. This could indicate that since people associate technology with the idea of change and the unknown, that surrealism is the artform that people already associate with technology.

However, when it comes to human artists, they are heavily influenced by their experiences, approach and training, etc., and therefore, it has been argued, struggle to express true surrealism.

In the case of artificial intelligence systems, things are slightly different. Indeed, it is their inexperience (at the current time at least) in understanding what we humans want and why we like certain things, means that they are in essence, free of many of the constraints that influence and bound the human artistic mind.

It could be argued that the “young” AI systems that we are currently developing are more free now than they will ever be. Since they have much less understanding as to the “why” when making their decisions, they are arguably free of any deeper conscious rationality behind our more complex decision making, and therefore can be more surreal.

At the current time, AI systems are being tasked with copying human artwork in order to undertake the long process of teaching them to understand what we like and dislike in art.

Comparing the images of CryptoPunk 6965 and CryptoPunk 7804; below, it is possible to see an evolution in the AI system’s approach.

We can see that the system, rather than creating an increasingly lifelike or realistic image of the subject, has, in fact, created a much more surreal rendition of the same image on a later attempt.

While the AI engineers may well have asked the system to do this, the parameters they would have encoded would have been relatively open, thereby allowing the system much more freedom to experiment without worrying what the results would be.

Indeed, as CryptoPunk 7804 testifies, the AI system, free of much in the way of human values or expectations, chose to create an image much more bizarre simply by its process of experimentation.

This means that with loose enough parameters regarding what they can create, an AI system would be able to create a far more “purely surrealistic”, in the objective sense, pieces of art than any human is capable of.

Does this provide the basis for a new surrealism movement?

Well, there is a simple answer to this question. With AI technology it is possible, it just depends if there is a market for it. In the past the world was different. Van Gogh famously never sold a painting in his lifetime and many other great artists died in total obscurity too. In the case of AI art, it will require a market, indeed, a financial one, for the human operator to continue to demand that the system creates it.

Also, since these systems require some form of training, they will always incorporate the goals of their creator in some form or another. So, while AI systems might not be able to create “pure surrealism” that is free of rational thought, they are still very much capable of creating appealing works of surrealism.

When it comes to a new movement, this is entirely possible. Since AI systems can work day and night, they will be capable of creating an enormous spectrum of art that might just spark some new flames and develop in new directions. Only time will tell.