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AI-Generated Artwork Wins State Fair Competition, Leaving Human Artists Unhappy

"This should not be allowed. It’s terrible."

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockSep 6 2022, 10:15 UTC
AI-generated art
An unrelated, not competition-winning image generated by AI. Image credit: teh_z1b/Shutterstock.com

A human has won first place at an art competition at the Colorado State Fair, using an artificial intelligence (AI)-generated image. Jason Allen – who goes by the username Sincarnate on Discord – announced on the Midjourney channel that he had won the Colorado State Fair fine arts competition, in the digital arts category

"After a one month hiatus, I have returned with an exciting announcement about my personal project I've made using Midjourney," he told the channel, devoted to image-generating AI Midjourney. 

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"I have been exploring a special prompt that I will be publishing at a later date, I have created 100s of images using it, and after many weeks of fine tuning and curating my gens, I chose my top three and had them printed on canvas after upscaling with Gigapixel A.I."

Using these images, he was asked to enter the competition in the digital arts category after he informed them the piece was made using a computer. Allen, who runs tabletop fantasy games company Incarnate Games, added that he informed the competition that it was made by “Jason Allen via Midjourney".

"I've set out to make a statement using Midjourney in a competitive manner and wow! I could not be more excited about having won with my favorite piece: 'Theatre d'Opera Spatial'."

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One of the judges in the competition – art historian Dagny McKinley – told the Washington Post that they did not know the piece was artificially generated, but that she would have voted for it anyway, adding that Allen “had a concept and a vision he brought to reality, and it’s really a beautiful piece.”

Allen, though he defended the work as art, describes himself as "not an artist". On this point, many artists agreed with him.

"Let’s pretend AI art didn’t exist for a second. Someone sends an artist a bunch of prompts, the artist does art and sends it back to the person who write the prompts. That person then enters the art into a contest under their own name and wins. That’s unethical," comic book artist Chris Shehan wrote on Twitter.

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"The AI is not a person, but the person who generated it by typing words into the AI is not an artist. They created nothing. At best, they collaborated. A collaboration they can take credit for because there’s no human on the other end. This should not be allowed. It’s terrible."

Allen, meanwhile, points out to the The Washington Post that he spent 80 hours tweaking the prompt input – which Midjourney turns into an image – going through more than 900 versions before he got it right. In some pieces, he had to make further manual tweaks using photoshop, including adding a head to someone the AI had deemed finished while they were headless.

Writing on Discord, he acknowledged that he was likely being criticized for a lack of effort or skill, but defended the work itself.

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"What if we looked at it from the other extreme, what if an artist made a wildly difficult and complicated series of restraints in order to create a piece, say, they made their art while hanging upside-down and being whipped while painting (this is extreme.) Should this artist's work be evaluated differently than another artist that created the same piece 'normally'?" he wrote

"I know what will become of this in the end, they are simply going to create an 'artificial intelligence art' category I imagine for things like this."


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