Theater legend Kani revisits South Africa’s destiny with Shakespeare

PARIS: Using advanced algorithms, Argentinian artist Sofia Crespo invents insects, American Robbie Barrat distorts the nudes of classical art. Drawing assisted by artificial intelligence is about to upset visual creation, according to its defenders.

“It’s like a ballet between man and machine,” says Jason Bailey, collector and one of crypto-art’s most renowned bloggers.

For the most part, these digital artists work with supercomputers and programs known as generative adversarial networks.

These are two artificial intelligence algorithms, called “neural networks”, which compete to deliver the most accomplished image to the artist: the human first provides source images and adjusts the parameters to obtain, at from these, a result that interests him.

Sofia Crespo, 30, uses it to recreate animals.

The goal “is not to avoid true nature, but to generate contact with nature in a medium in which we spend a lot of time, which is the digital medium”, she indicated to the AFP in a video interview from Lisbon.

His insects are eerily hyper-realistic, with antennae, wings and bodies that look like something out of an entomology textbook. Except that they are all missing a head, and their bodies seem to have undergone multiple genetic mutations.

– All artists? –

The dazzling progress of AI suggests a world where the computer would be able to learn and create, like humans.

But, for the moment, artificial intelligence still needs guidance and Sofia Crespo’s series of insects required countless back and forth between the models proposed by the artist and the neural networks.

If “the computer is an integral part of the creative process”, “the ability to generate realistic images does not make everyone an artist”, a quality which requires “a critical and innovative capacity”, according to Camille Lenglois, curator at the Pompidou Center in Paris.

Robbie Barrat started his work around 2018, as Sofia Crespo. He entered thousands of classic art nudes into his computer, and began a dialogue with the machine, until he got what he was looking for: a series of amorphous busts, halfway between Salvador Dalí and Francis Bacon.

“When I work this way, I don’t create an image. I am creating a system that can recreate images. In a way, I am creating a tool,” he says.

At 22, this developer is a digital art prodigy. One of his works, “NudePortrait#7Frame#64”, sold in March at Sotheby’s for more than 700,000 euros.

Four years earlier, his code had been widely exploited by the French collective Obvious to create the painting “Portrait of Edmond de Belamy”, sold this time at Christie’s for more than 400,000 euros.

– Armchair-lawyer –

But today, new simpler algorithms, called “transformers”, are preparing to upset this fledgling universe.

A problem so far was “to put text as input and output images”, explain to AFP Hugo Caselles-Dupré and Gauthier Vernier, from the Obvious collective.

In particular, it is necessary to be able to make the machine ingest astronomical quantities of images of all kinds accompanied by descriptions.

A titanic task only accessible by well-funded projects, such as the Dall-E 2 model from the Californian start-up OpenAI, notably funded by billionaire Elon Musk, or Imagen, a competing project from Google Research.

From a simple sentence, the machine then becomes capable of mixing concepts and creating several representations of a “skateboarding couple of radishes”, a “lawyer’s chair”, or a “monkey astronaut”, all with a photographic, comic book style, or in the manner of a 17th century Flemish painter.

“It’s the best in terms of image generation in general,” says Sofia Crespo, who was able to experiment with Dall-E.

Experts believe that these programs could revolutionize the entire image creation and editing industry.

On social networks, many examples are already circulating, including a disturbing representation of an animal at the crossroads of shrimp and centaur, from a research laboratory called Midjourney.

On the other hand, OpenAI and Google have not yet published or marketed a consumer tool directly, in particular because of the risk of malicious use.

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Theater legend Kani revisits South Africa’s destiny with Shakespeare

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