Exhibition NI/AI

(Natural Intelligence vs. Artificial Intelligence)
Exhibition of digital prints
by Ertunç Sali
16.09.2022 (MKC)

Have you ever pondered the significance behind a picture? Have you ever attempted to interpret a painting? When asked, “What does this picture mean?” or “What’s wrong with this picture?” perhaps your response was, “I’m not sure, but there’s something captivating about it,” or simply, “I don’t know, but it doesn’t sit right.” Before passing judgment on whether an exhibition is good or bad, I suggest dedicating 2-3 minutes to the following text, which will serve as your guide throughout the exhibition.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the most influential minds in the philosophy of language, poses the same question and offers an answer in his seminal work “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus” through his theory of the image in language. He suggests that all human communication is essentially a narration of images. The speaker becomes the artist, and their words become the palette. They articulate the image in their mind, which is then conveyed to the listener. However, not every communication flows seamlessly, and consequently, not every mental image is aesthetically pleasing. The efficacy of communication hinges on the speaker’s choice of words and the listener’s understanding of those words. The quality of communication thus depends on both the quality of the words and the clarity of the mental image.

Following this theory, if every thought is inherently pictorial and written text can also be considered a picture, can we then regard novels as storytellers of images? Are novelists, in essence, great painters? Consider the detailed narrative style of Dostoevsky’s novels. Can he be compared to Rembrandt, who meticulously depicted scenes in his paintings? It’s worth noting that Rembrandt was a master of his craft, operating a studio where he mentored students. With numerous sketches and detailed descriptions, he taught his students to emulate his style, leading some to speculate that certain paintings attributed to Rembrandt were actually executed by his students under his guidance. In essence, he outlined the composition, and his students brought it to life with their brushstrokes, with Rembrandt providing the final touch. Not unlike contemporary artists today.

At the dawn of the 20th century, humanity witnessed the zenith of industrialization, with advancements in machinery and its utilization. Now, in the early 21st century, we are on the cusp of a new era, one where machines are gaining consciousness. Machines, once dependent on our control, are now poised to develop their own awareness, thanks to advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI). Previous attempts to bestow consciousness upon machines evoked vehement reactions from society. However, recent achievements have spurred artistic endeavors. AI can now produce art — poetry, music, animation, and now, even paintings. Can we consider this realization to be Wittgenstein’s dream? I contemplate his potential stance on this matter, while simultaneously embracing his theoretical support for it.

The exhibited works are generated by MidJourney, an AI-powered program that translates text into images. Operating on the binary system, wherein each human word equates to a specific code, the program yields fascinating results with just a single click. Not every resulting image is extraordinary; the quality of the words dictates the quality of the image. Yet, it remains a reflection of the narrator’s imagination.

Through no more than six pieces, the artist endeavors to offer their perspective on a subject that has captivated artists worldwide. For the artist, the quality of their works still rests upon the quality of their thoughts. We humans are inherently chaotic beings, in constant pursuit of order and beauty. Meanwhile, machines, with their systematic approach, seek to mitigate chaos and foster mutual understanding. To them, we are nothing more than sacks of flesh. Yet, within chaos lies order, and within order lies beauty.

The story goes like this:

I regret to inform you that the original works intended for this exhibition have been misplaced. These works consisted of ink pen drawings meticulously crafted on 160 gr. beige paper, formatted to A4 dimensions. My intention was to evoke the spirit of artists like Rembrandt, entrusting a student to recreate my visions on canvas. Much like Dostoyevsky’s rich descriptions in literature and Wittgenstein’s theories on representation, I sought to convey my ideas through vivid imagery.

What you encounter in this exhibition is my recollection of those lost drawings, supplemented by the instructions I provided to an AI system and the resulting interpretations it produced. While the descriptions may suffice for human understanding, the images conjured in my mind and in others may differ, potentially diminishing the artist’s intended impact. Through this experiment with AI software, I aim to underscore the inherent subjectivity of interpretation.

As you reflect on artworks in the future, consider the importance of offering comprehensive details to foster a shared understanding of the artist’s vision.