Fur Affinity bans AI-generated art, but AI has a plot to return.
by Patch O'Furr
AI art tools made me think of a term: sequential juxtaposition acceleration.
An AI tool starts with scraping millions of pre-made images from the net. That’s a learning set to combine and interpolate. Prompt it with key words (green grass, old building), and you get approximations of everything that matches. One could call this a form of cheating artists, because people don’t like the scraping of pre-made sources without permission. But after they combine, the output is nothing that ever existed. That’s doing what any artist does to learn from reference, but in a wholesale, industrial way that wasn’t envisioned by the current creative property system.
Back to that problem in a minute, but first think about art context.
Collage is a method of using pre-made images. 100 years ago, Dada and Surrealist artists started cutting pictures out of print media and juxtaposing them for a sense of irony or the uncanny. Conceptual art came from “readymades” of industrially made but recontextualized objects. (Consider the irrational sensation of trying to use a furry teacup.) Warhol continued the process with industrial pop art. Suddenly, art rendering mattered less than ideas.
If AI art was only for derivative copies, there wouldn’t be more to say; but recontextualizing is a skill too, and accelerating it is powerful for an artist.
Here’s a silly example: juxtapose Barney the Dinosaur with H.R. Giger. An artist can draw it, but for a low-effort meme type thing, why not use a tool and spend the time on more original things?
Now do it 1000 times and play it back sequentially with editing and music. That’s effort. You can make a unique, trippy aesthetic unlike anything else. Wizardhead is creating cool videos like that with metal music (fair warning, this is a little gross):
Youtube’s copyright system was used for a strike against fair use of referencing Elmo videos for these.
Speaking of copyright issues for AI learning sets, let’s compare them to sampling pre-made music. When new tech for music sampling emerged in the 1980’s, it was controversial, but made a golden period for a genre of hip hop with acts like Public Enemy. But copyright tightened up and unregulated sampling made it hard to access:
In 1989, obtaining the permission of musical copyright holders for the use of their intellectual property was often an afterthought. There was little precedent for young artists’ mining their parents’ record collections for source material and little regulation or guidelines for that process.
It’s culturally important, right? Another music comparison is mashups with DJ’s and clubs doing popular live parties. The music industry also changed with tech for downloading and sharing until streaming came in. It makes me wonder if AI art may take a role in the culture like that, and how the artists would count.
I stand with artists, not prompts.
— Dragoneer (@Dragoneer) September 5, 2022
The Furaffinity ban made mainstream news in Vice. It echoed my thoughts last week… a ban is probably smart so a niche, independent site doesn’t get flooded with unoriginal and derivative content. But I don’t think the tools are useless for skilled users; and it probably won’t keep them out of the culture.
It made me ask a friend about using the tech to remaster old media that’s hard to watch, like cartoons and games in low resolution – and I learned that there’s already a scene for that.
Thirsty furries take note: you can probably generate all-adult versions of beloved animation.
The FurAffinity ban points to signatures from reference art in the learning set as a reason, saying the approximate signatures show copying:
I've been monitoring and taking notes for weeks. I've seen tons of mutilated artists signatures.
AI art is a damn good *learning* tool, but it's taking everything it does from artists. It leeches on the time, effort, skill, energy an artist put into their work.
— Dragoneer (@Dragoneer) September 5, 2022
The examples I saw weren’t signatures. They were glitches in the place those go. Is anyone confused about those being someone else’s work? This reminds me of how the Cats movie was edited to remove accidental “buttholes”… isn’t that a bit of over-analyzing?
Job security for artists seems like the other big worry besides quality and control. Cameras didn’t kill painting; they made jobs for photographers. Stock art and news illustrations generated by AI could possibly go into direct competition with illustrators. But they still need to generate from recognizable styles, don’t they?
From running a nonprofit news site paid out of pocket, there are no jobs here, just need. Nobody would be unemployed if this site had a button to generate something free matching the text, and although they can generate whole stories too, they can’t do that for research (and furry panache.)
If you oppose AI art, maybe your art can be kept out of it, but Big Data may change the culture before you even realize it. Just look for your house on Google Maps; they already have the photo and you probably use their product. We’re looking at a map of uncharted territory.
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