What is Artifice?

I’ve been thinking about “AI” and “art” and “photography” and the slippages people makes when discussing where these concepts coincide and where they do not. It frustrates me to see the conversation around the place of technology in art-making being swept up in outmoded generalizations around what “is” or “isn’t” art when the ethical anxieties that AI brings up are better addressed at a more granular level: what is or isn’t an artifice? At what point does the maker end and the mechanism begin?

I took these photos in 2008 on what we’re now calling a “digicam” of some kind. What makes these images “photographs” is the irreducible optical relationship that occurred on that day in that alleyway in 2008: that light hitting this lens digitized on this card and archived, to be retrieved for you today. That’s what differentiates it from an image generated by AI — but is it art?

Where does the expression begin? In the crop and composition or with the markers and paint on that wall in Brick Lane in 2008?

Or maybe it started when I added that white border on Canva this morning?

Or maybe there isn’t any art to be found here at all.

I love turntablism and glitch art and collage and dada and net.art too much to reject AI because “it’s not real” or “it’s not original” or “it’s not human” — but I do repudiate it when it tries to pass itself off for what it’s not. An AI image is a simulacrum and not an irreducible relationship of light and time and place. An AI image is an iteration and not a moment that can never ever happen again.

I don’t care if AI is art — the question is: will it make my eyes sting?


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