A week ago or so, a comic made the rounds on Twitter. I won’t give any more importance than needed to its author, or even to the comic itself. Instead, I want to use it as context for a short stream of consciousness about art. No more, no less.
Here's an abridged version of the strip.
There is no twist at the end. The comic insults the reader’s unremarkableness in a few different ways, and then it ends. So the only thought had in mind, after reading, was something like:
Why was this made? What was the reaction the author intended?
Unless I’m missing something, it’s a joke without a punchline, a story without a story to tell. If this is how the author feels about themselves, that's pretty sad? Otherwise, it... exists, and because the stars happened to align, that’s what made it big on the internet for a time. For better and for worse; the reception for this one has been quite unkind.
And that’s all I have to say about that comic! See, I told you it wasn't too important!
But I’d already been thinking about this lately due to the rise in… frequency, shall we say, of AI-produced art. The outcomes can, at times, look or sound fairly convincing.
Yet, even if we disregard the unethical means by which the AI had been trained in the first place, something is missing for me. Time and time again, I cannot find a satisfying answer to this very question.
Why was this made?
If we pretend for a second that the person responsible commissioned a human to make the piece instead, what would the intent of creating that specific thing be then?
So often, the content produced is a means to an end, an advertisement that doesn’t have a personal story to tell.
“Midjourney can make something that looks as good as this!”
“This piece fooled this or that panel of judges!”
“The tech is only going to get better and better!”
“This is the skillset of the future!”
I don't want to act as the gatekeeper of what counts as "true" art, let me be clear! There are plenty of reasons to create that aren’t soiled by the stench of marketing. Like doing something just to get better at that thing, or sharing thoughts you have in your head, even when they're not fleshed out that much! I don't think art has to be anything grander than that.
Even in tiny, tiny ways, those involved in creation are still sharing a part of themselves with the world. Skill does not have to factor into it. Detach the person claiming credit from the act of creation, and that intimacy becomes lost in the process, I find. And I'm left wondering what it was created for.
The world is inundated by enough “content” as-is. Hour-long video essays retelling the story of Shrek 2 play-by-play. Listicles about the top 10 best issues of Nintendo Power. Tons and tons of stuff, created through some tech or another, to please some algorithm or another. Livelihoods built on shifting sands, on illusions of meritocratic and impartial systems.
I don’t believe the world needs more content. As such, it's hard to agree that it needs easier, "democratized" ways to produce it as well.
I do wish it was easier to find moments, genuine and honest moments, within it all. And though I'm just starting to craft things of my own, and though they're no good yet, I still hope. I hope beyond hope that in time, such moments are what I'll be able to share with you.