State of the art: The impact of AI and tech on artistry

19 Oct 2023

Aisling Murray, Beta. Image: Elaine Burke

As AI and art continue to collide, the latest episode of For Tech’s Sake discusses what it means to be at this intersection with Beta festival director Aisling Murray.

The relationship between art and tech has long been argued for, adding the ‘A’ into the well-known acronym STEM to make STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

But conversations around this intersection have become more prominent over the last year with the explosion of generative AI tools.

Text-to-image AI generators like Google’s Imagen AI, OpenAI’s DALL-E 2 and StableAI’s Stable Diffusion have created heated debates around plagiarism and copyright, due to these AI models scraping the data of creative works to then reproduce similar versions.

At the beginning of this year, well-known image bank Getty Images sued Stability AI for allegedly stealing copyrighted content, the court battle for which is still brewing.

And outside of the copyright issues, there is the question of taking humans out of the loop in creative processes. Last September, a game designer won an art competition with an AI-generated image, angering artists. Earlier this year, a German artist turned down an award at a major global photography competition after revealing his submission was created by AI.

But while the role AI plays in creating art – including pictures, music and writing – continues to be a legal minefield, it doesn’t mean that new AI tools have no place in the world or art.

For example, visual artist and former scientist Libby Heaney uses her scientific knowledge and skills as tools in creating her art. Her work includes elements of quantum computing, AI and graphics “entangled” with visceral elements such as slime, fabric and watercolour painting to create immersive, contemporary visual and performance art.

To talk about the fascinating debate around tech and art, on the latest episode of For Tech’s Sake we were joined by Aisling Murray, director of Beta arts and technology festival where Heaney’s work will be showcased in Dublin among other artists.

“I think that technology really is a tool in terms of creativity in the arts,” Murray said. “The way in which technology can enable people to push the boundaries of the way that they create work, I’m really thinking of it as a tool in that way.”

Check out the full episode with Aisling Murray and subscribe for more.

Beta will take place on 2-5 November and is organised by The Digital Hub, with support from Science Foundation Ireland, and will focus on technology’s impacts on society. Heaney is one of many artists, performers and researchers who will be taking part in the programme of events.

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