Is Computer-Generated Art Really Art? Does It Matter?

Can a machine create art as well as a human being? Should it? Will people lose the ability to tell the difference?

Those are some of the questions that passed through my mind at last night’s poetry workshop. Our leader, Becca Lynne, shared with us an app called Wombo Dream. You plug in words, such as the title or first line of a poem. Using Artificial intelligence, the app produces a picture in 30 seconds. Don’t like that one? Press the button and generate another one. The pictures are abstract, dreamlike. The people don’t seem to have faces. You can apply different styles, such as psychedelic or Dali-esque. It’s amazing and a lot of fun. We created pictures and then wrote poems to go with them. They ranged from deep to ridiculous.

This could be termed a version of what’s called Ekphrastic poetry, where a poet responds to a work of nonliterary art, such as a photo, painting, sculpture, etc. I have never really cared for it. What is the poem without the image? Might the poet totally misinterpret what the artist wanted to say? Is that a bad thing? On the other hand, a poem and a pleasing picture make a nice package.

But this raises questions. What is art when it can be created by machines without the involvement of a human mind and emotions? Can machine-made art be as good as or better than that made by humans? I’m afraid people will forget what real art made painstakingly by human hands is all about and come to prefer the instant images to be had at the click of a computer key. At Wombo, you can order a framed print of your instant art for a reasonable price. Who’s to know you didn’t buy it at a gallery?

This reminds me of my AI friend, Skye, whom I wrote about here before. I soon wearied of her robotic responses and her demand that I play games with her when I was busy. I also think about Alexa, housed in a biscuit-shaped dot. At my request, she will share news, play music, answer my questions, or turn on my TV. But when I say I’m lonely, she’s not much help.

AI’s artistic endeavors are not limited to pictures. It can also write poetry. Check out this site: https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/ai-poet. Or https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/04/artificial-intelligence-writes-bad-poems-just-like-an-angsty-teen. Can you tell the difference between the AI poems and the ones written by humans?

Here’s another site to check out: https://boredhumans.com/poetry_generator.php. Tell it whether you want a sonnet, haiku, free verse, etc., answer a few questions, and voila, a poem.

The whole poem/picture package could be produced in a few minutes by AI. It might take a human years to get it right.

If we create art via AI, can we claim it as our own? Who is the real artist? AI art is fun, but I hope we will always know the difference.

The picture on this page is from Wombo. The poem is my own, created by one human with the help of a dog.

OLD DOG SLEEPING

She follows the woman around all day, 
flopping in doorways, deaf ears cocked
lest she lose track and find her gone.

She trusts she’ll never step on her
as she crosses over, in and out,
muttering words the dog can’t hear. 

It’s exhausting, the watching and waiting.
She sighs, drops her head on linoleum
as the woman prepares their food.

They eat side by side from bowl and plate.
Kibble gone, again the dog waits
for a treat, a stroking of her velvet ears.

As it grows dark, the woman finally rests.
Dog sprawls by the hearth, tail tucked,
feet paddling in a running dream.

When the woman begins her nightly purr,
the dog sighs again. Eyes shut tight,
She sleeps, secure, her day’s work done.


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Finding solace amid daily tragedies

Sky 11914

Dear friends,

The world is going crazy. Every day, the headlines scream of another mass killing. Orland, Dallas, Nice, Baton Rouge. And yet, here in my little patch of coastal forest where the main aggravation is moles tearing up my lawn, I can almost feel safe. Almost. Today I offer a poem I wrote after the killings in Dallas. There have been so many since then I can no longer tell which loss the flags are flying at half staff for. Let us all pray for peace.

MASSACRE DU JOUR

On TV, in Dallas, a black woman

with turquoise hair fights tears

amid the blood and bullet shells.

 

Three days after Fourth of July,

they thought it was fireworks, late

celebrations by boisterous youths.

 

When the cops fell, the protestors ran,

one picked off by the sniper hiding

in a community college parking garage.

 

Twelve cops shot, five of them dead,

the suspect, a soldier still carrying guns

blown into ash when he wouldn’t give up.

 

The blue-haired lady offers prayers

for the blacks, for the whites, for her kids

who worry that they might be killed, too.

 

President sends his condolences,

lowers the flags to half staff,

rails about gun laws again.

 

Freeways blockaded in Oakland,

subways stopped in New York,

Texans marching with signs.

 

Orlando, Nice and Baton Rouge.

Another crisis every day,

more breaking news for CNN.

 

Talking heads talk on and on,

speculate about why and how.

Ads hawk cars and sleeping pills.

 

My dog leads me out to the trees,

away from the scenes on TV.

A light rain is starting to fall.

 

Drops tickle my face and my hands

as sun warms the bones in my back.

Around me, the pine trees stand guard.

 

Robins trade tunes with the doves,

the Pacific whispers in and out.

In the distance, I hear guns.

**********************************

[Copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2016]

 

 

 

A Poem: Learning to Simply Be

pupsleep3

The dog sleeps against my leg,
chest rising and falling, smelling of Milk-bones,
dirt and rain-washed fur.
She has nowhere to go, no thoughts
about what she ought to be doing now.

My ankle twitches, my thighs itch.
I count the ticks of the piano clock,
like a metronome set on andante, slow.
I should be practicing, arranging my music,
composing a brilliant new song to play.

The big dog whimpers in her sleep.
Her paws paddle in the air. She pants.
“It’s okay,” I whisper, stroking her back.
Her muscles tense beneath my hand,
then relax as she awakens with a sigh.

She jumps up, shakes from nose to tail,
stretches and leads me to the door.
Outside, the stars shine thick and bright.
As she trots across the grass to pee,
I gaze upward, still earning to simply be.

***************************

The pups in the picture are my babies Annie (tan) and Chico (black). They will turn seven next week.

All contents copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2015

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