That’s great honey… What… is it?
It’s been an exciting and frustrating few weeks in the world of arts, AI and Machine Learning. Deepfakes are finally mainstream and are scaring people across the globe.
I can hear talented CG artists weeping
Will this be the end of plausible authenticity?? No. Look at Trump. Nevertheless, it’s growing availability will change how we analyse media, it can no longer be taken as “trusted by default”, but instead, the rhetoric and motivation behind a video should be considered as highly as you would consider the visual authenticity. It’s not the end of the world though. We’ve seen believable fake viral videos for years now.
Probably my favourite fake viral video from 2012
it’s just become a little easier and in some cases more impressive… and may I say, a little bland? Who cares about deep-fake news anchors there must be more interesting applications of such technology, don’t quote me on this (seriously, I’m probably wrong) but I feel like the Elton John John Lewis Christmas ad uses deep-fake to bring back a younger version of the artist briefly. Anyway, I still feel like the benefits of deep-fakes vastly outweigh the downsides. Until we start making non-consensual stuff and blackmailing each other, that’s gonna be hell.
Back to the fridge. A GAN generative portrait “Portrait of Edmond Belamy” sold for $432,500 at Christie’s (eyes roll SO far back they disappear inside my head). Don’t get me wrong ML GAN work can be gorgeous and this is an exciting time for ML art but why this piece? (Spoiler: hype). Mario Klingemann is as close to a Rembrandt or Degas as you get with GAN artwork, their work is truly gorgeous, and I recommend trying to track down an exhibition/following them on twitter. But this portrait… let me get my biggest issue out of the way first, before coming back to the Fridge thing.
The piece looks remarkably close to the work of Robbie Barrat, another incredibly talented (19-year old) AI artist. And when I say close, I mean near identical, look at this tweet.
left: the "AI generated" portrait Christie's is auctioning off right now— Robbie Barrat (@DrBeef_) October 25, 2018
right: outputs from a neural network I trained and put online *over a year ago*.
Does anyone else care about this? Am I crazy for thinking that they really just used my network and are selling the results? pic.twitter.com/wAdSOe7gwz
For those who have less of an understanding of GAN networks you have to train a “model”, this model can take weeks, even months and requires carefully selecting hundreds of training images, calculating the correct weights and essentially a lot of trial and error. It’s the heart and soul of the resultant work and the most critical stage in the development. The question is, did the creators of the portrait use Barrat’s model? This is the same question many people are asking, and I couldn’t say, not just because I’m scared of their inevitable legal team (as they did earn $432,500 (minus commission). This presents a difficult but essential conversation around the open-sourcing of artwork and who can claim the rights to it? As AI work becomes increasingly more valuable, it becomes less insane to relate it to traditional works and how their process of attribution works, but the two are not compatible. Imagine if I painted a new Mona Lisa, it’s not identical, but it has the certain characteristic style, I’d be called out for it, it’s not fair, but it’s ultimately not illegal. Now what if I used an open source GAN model to train a portrait that then sold for hundreds of thousands, is that right? Again, if the license is correct, it’s not illegal. This is why I so often question why/if I put work online. But anyway that’s for another rant/article.
The fridge! The actual title of the post. The “Kitchen fridge theory” is something I came up with to try and explain the public’s reaction to AI art. In early 2016/17 ML GAN generated art was a new thing, shiny even, people were amazed a piece of silicon could create something that looks… somewhat creative, so everyone started producing badly-trained GAN’s. It’s what I call the “Kitchen Fridge” stage of art. It’s like when your child comes home with a portrait he drew of you, “thanks, Jimmy… it’s a… dog…. oh it’s me”. You smile gracefully, questioning how hairy you look before placing it centre-front on the kitchen fridge. You know it sucks, I mean, last time you checked you don’t have hair sprouting from your cheeks, but this little human did something creative and deserved some praise.