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The Colorado State Fair in the United States recently held an art competition with various categories, and one of the winners was Jason Allen for his artwork called “Théâtre d’Opéra Spatial”. However, the particularity of this work is that it was generated by MidJourney, an artificial intelligence. 


Presentation of MidJourney

MidJourney is an artificial intelligence ( AI ) generating pictures from texts. The particularity of this AI is that it focuses on artistic style. In fact, the creators of Midjourney do not want the image to be real but to be beautiful. MidJourney is still in beta version, and users need to register on the official website to create something. They can then submit their text to the AI via Discord messaging, but the service is available on a public channel. A subscription is required to communicate with the robot privately.


Controversy about the use of AI in art competition. 

The artist was fully aware that it would create controversy. One of the principal criticisms is the creation of images by artificial intelligence. Indeed, this artwork was made by Midjourney and not by Jason Allen. On Twitter, a user said : “we’re watching the death of artistry unfold right before our eyes (…)

As Jason Allen said it : “ how interesting is it to see how all these people on Twitter who are against AI generated art are the first ones to throw the human under the bus by discrediting the human element ! Does this seem hypocritical to you guys ? ”. He asserted he had spent more than eighty hours working to create these three works. He tried more than 900 texts in order to obtain the best result. After, he retouched the works on Photoshop. Finally, before printing his works on canvases, he scaled them with Gigapixel A.I. So according to him, he did not only copy words and win competitions. There is a real work, a real artistic approach behind his works. 

Other criticisms emanate from the process of creation. Indeed, AI uses existing pictures to create other works. Therefore, some consider it is as counterfeiting.  

Nonetheless, all criticisms are not negative, and some are in favour of Jason Allen. For example, a person asserted that Jason was an artist : he was not a painter of course. But he composed and created his artwork with HIS imagination, HIS art. The tools changed but who cares !


The legality of the use of AI 

Finally, a lot of criticisms are about the legality of the use of AI. Some people consider that it is cheating because it is not Jason Allen who drew these works but Midjourney.

It is important to remember that Jason Allen participated in the category “digital arts and digitally retouched photographs”. The category authorized the use of digital technologies such as AI generating pictures or Photoshop. 

Then, “Theatre d’Opera Spatial” was exhibited under the name : “Jason M. Allen via MidJourney”. Consequently, the jury was supposed to know about the use of AI. However, they admitted that they did not know that MidJourney was an AI. But, they asserted that even with full awareness of the true nature of MidJourney, Jason Allen would have won the first place. 

So, it was entirely possible to use AI  in this category to create works. In that case, it’s not cheating but digital art. 



M2 Cyberjustice – Promotion 2022/2023


Sources : 

A propos de Julie Gracia