At least in the public consciousness, AI art has gone from feeling fresh and compelling to feeling plentiful and almost ubiquitous, all in just a matter of months.
Museums, publications, and websites concerned in any way with contemporary art have rushed to demonstrate relevance in this category as publicly as possible.
Exhibitions, panel discussions, video featurettes, social media– the dissemination of the discourse surrounding AI art has taken over the art world, and this follows a rather similar rollout of publicity and discourse surrounding the controversial popularization of NFTs.
Regardless of stance, being involved in the art world today also means being involved, to some degree, with the incendiary combination of art and ‘the digital.’
From the perspective of art industry professionals, the onset has been far more gradual, as notable artists and curators have been keenly interested in both digital art and physical art concerned with digital technology and digital realities for many years, more or less since the advent of consumer-facing computing technology.
And now, a younger generation of artists, curators, and organizers have devoted themselves quite fully to art informed in part or in whole by advanced technologies, most specifically the technologies of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Jing Dong, a media artist and technology developer who is based in Los Angeles, creates work that belongs to this broad category, but we want to stress that Dong’s work is not simply AI-generated visual art.
AI-generated compositions have proven more than capable of capturing attention and sparking discussion, but Dong’s work, examples of which you’ll see throughout the article, are generally more expansive.
The artwork is a combination of installation art, conceptual art, and interactive art, and of course, it commonly involves the use of AI or machine learning in some form.
Dong brings a somewhat novel viewpoint to the contemporary art world by virtue of having professional experience as a developer, notably with the notorious tech giant Amazon.
“I see myself as a pioneer in bridging the gap between these two fields. My deep understanding of computer software, user interaction, and multimedia art allows me to create thought-provoking works that challenge the boundaries of technology and art.”
Before we continue, we would like to recommend that any interested readers visit Dong’s website for a more comprehensive sampling of her work.
Dong’s work has been exhibited at a variety of events, including Ars electronica, re: connections, JACCC Release: Heard in LA Exhibition, Digital Future, and Coaxialarts Art + Technology.
Below, we will discuss Dong’s artistic process, the effects of recognition, the posthuman era, as well as other artists currently working in the technology and art space.
Before digging deeper, It is crucial to accurately define the term ‘posthuman’ in regard to this emerging art category and Dong’s work in particular.
Unlike work based on post-anthropomorphism, posthuman work is not concerned with a future in which humans don’t exist. Rather, posthuman refers to a present and future in which hybrid intelligence is the norm.
“The posthuman is presented through forms of hybrid intelligence, or blends of human and non-human elements, using technology to enhance human abilities and transcend human limitations.”
When someone provides a prompt to an AI chatbot, for example, both human intelligence and artificial intelligence are collaborating in that moment. It is not the overtaking of one or the other, though Dong’s interest in the posthuman concept does include considerations of potential drawbacks and ethical conflicts, a topic we will return to shortly.
Even outside of AI usage and its integration into publicly accessible software, various technological devices also represent a form of hybrid intelligence.
The use of a smartphone, for example, is also an instance of human intelligence being combined with non-human intelligence.
Smartphone usage is also a useful example in that it demonstrates just how quickly this kind of hybrid intelligence can become normalized.
We no longer think of smartphone or internet usage as especially futuristic or ‘beyond human.’ Dong has rightly recognized that this progress will likely be mirrored by the normalization of tech that is based around AI.
Unlike traditional forms of visual art, Dong often creates pieces that incorporate not only visuals but objects, sound, and interaction.
She follows an intuitive process when creating the visual components of a piece.
“I usually spend time polishing the visual expressions when I create a new piece. I would also let my curiosity and mindlessness lead the part of visual’s implementation, and like to see how they introduced the happenings and uncertainties to the piece, which is also the most interesting part of creating to me.”
Beyond visuals, the sonic and interactive elements of Dong’s work seek to actively involve the viewer/audience, “allowing the audience to complete the rest of the work in their own way.”
Dong also feels that this participatory aspect represents another major difference from traditional visual art.
Recognition of AI art and posthuman art refers not only to the recognition and promotion of the art itself but also recognition of the perceived importance of the underlying subject matter. In this way, the subject matter and the art actively discussing that subject matter become almost inseparable.
Despite tangentially related digital art and art of the digital, AI art and posthuman art are both members of a relatively new category.
“The intersection of art and technology is a rapidly evolving field that is exploring a wide range of topics and themes that include immersive and interactive experiences, data, robotics, and automation.”
In a way, this art category is trying to keep pace with the advancement of AI implementation itself. Dong referenced the speed at which ChatGPT has been integrated into popular software.
The benefits are clear, but the integration of this and similar technology has also raised dire questions about the social and ethical effects.
“Some new social issues have appeared, such as surveillance, social justice, and human rights. My artwork is concerned with how we should address social and technology issues, raising awareness, and inspiring action.”
Dong also highlighted that, while there is substantial interest in this art category, it is still quite difficult to sell these works in the traditional art market.
The category is well-known and widely publicized, but this doesn’t mean that it has fully established itself within the art world of today.
Even so, there are a number of notable artists, in addition to Dong, who are creating compelling work in the category.
Dong mentioned two artists in particular who are incorporating technology into their work with great skill. The first of these is Refik Anadol.
“Refik Anadol is one of my favorite Los Angeles-based media artists who specializes in immersive and interactive art installations that incorporate advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data. Anadol’s work often explores the relationship between humans and machines and the intersection of digital and physical environments.”
The second artist is Christian Mio Loclair.
“Christian Mio Loclair creates immersive and interactive installations that blend cutting-edge technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and motion tracking with traditional art forms such as painting, sculpture, and music.”
Dong has observed the emergence of a fair number of art and technology artists in recent years, and by offering their own, unique perspectives on media art, installation art, and interactive art, they continue to inspire her to continue her own work.
Looking now to the near future of Dong’s art career, she shared the areas of focus for her upcoming work.
“I’m working on posthuman and AI Art, mainly using AI technology to create interactive installations or generative art. I’m also creating an interactive installation that explores the relationship between humans and the natural world. I am very fascinated by human and machine activity in the natural environment and how we coexist as part of a larger ecosystem.”
This inclusion of natural environments and natural ecosystems represents an exciting perspective within the technology and art category.
Indeed, Dong’s work thus far has set her apart as a leading figure in technology and art. And further, the support and recognition this work has received suggest an art career that will continue to be both exciting and compelling, especially as the technology and art category grows and expands alongside ongoing advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning.