Martin Zeilinger

Generative Adversarial Copy Machines

date: 01 August 2021
tags: AI art, GANs, posthumanism, agency, intellectual property

Forthcoming in the Culture Machine special issue “Machine Intelligences in Context: Beyond the Technological Sublime,” co-edited by Peter Jakobsson, Anne Kaun and Fredrik Stiernstedt.

Abstract: This essay explores the redistribution of expressive agency across human artists and non-human entities that inevitably occurs when artificial intelligence (AI) becomes involved in creative processes. In doing so, my focus is not on a ‘becoming-creative’ of AI in an anthropocentric sense of the term. Rather, my central argument is as follows: if AI systems are (or will be) capable of generating outputs that can satisfy requirements by which creativity is currently being evaluated, validated, and valorised, then AI inevitably disturbs prevailing aesthetic and ontological assumptions concerning anthropocentrically framed ideals of the artist figure, the work of art, and the idea of creativity as such. I will elaborate this argument by way of a close reading of Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) technology and its uses in AI art, alongside examples of ownership claims and disputes involving GAN-style AI art. Overall, the discussion links to cultural theories of AI, relevant legal theory, and posthumanist thought. It is across these contexts that I will reframe GAN systems, even when their ‘artistic’ outputs can be interpreted with reference to the concept of the singular author figure, as ‘Generative Adversarial Copy Machines.’ Ultimately, I want to propose that the disturbances effected by AI in artistic practices can pose a critical challenge to the integrity of cultural ownership models – specifically: intellectual property (IP) enclosures – which rely on an anthropocentric conceptualisation of authorship.