Over the course of 2022, there’s been a lot of discussion about the role of AI in art. Thanks in large part to how accessible generative adversarial networks (GANs) like Midjourney and DALL-E have become, individuals all over the globe are uncovering their inner artists for the first time in their lives. Due to the ease of use of these AI-based art-generating platforms, even those wholly untrained in the arts now have the means to bring visions from their minds’ eyes into reality.
This development has brought with it a rather large question: Will AI networks one day replace real artists?
Whether you’re in the NFT community or traditional art community, chances are you’ve engaged in discussions surrounding this idea in recent months. Now, in what she calls “the first-ever photography commission inspired by artificial intelligence,” artist Cath Simard is exploring this question in an entirely new way.
The art of the journey
Simard’s prior work in the NFT art space has earned her a strong fan base in its growing photography sphere. Following a long career in landscape photography, Simard took her first steps into Web3 with her genesis NFT collection on SuperRare, Lumière Du Noir. It’s a stunning collection of ethereal landscapes taken throughout Simard’s various journeys around the world.
Through her photos, Simard hopes to capture emotions felt at locations across disparate points in time. Namely, the points at which one arrives at a location and when one looks back at it. The result is dreamlike, deeply personal landscapes that seemingly mirror the ways in which Simard idealized them in her memory. However, with her latest creative venture From Nowhere to Somewhere, Simard is hoping to flip the script somewhat.
Instead of sharing pieces of her adventures with the world, she’s inviting the NFT community to curate her next adventure for her.
This desire stems from the relationship Simard has developed with her community in the NFT art space. “My relationship with my NFT collectors is completely different than the ones I have with my physical print collectors. I interact with them on a daily basis, and I consider them friends and mentors,” she said in an interview with nft now. “Because NFTs are completely new and constantly evolving with a lot of ups and downs, I feel like it creates this unique bond with the people who support you. We are on this journey together.”
Starting on Nov. 8 and running to Nov. 11, she’s inviting her community to use EpoLabs in conjunction with Stable Diffusion to conjure up AI landscapes. Following this creation period, there will be an auction that will run from Nov. 12 to 14 and start at a reserve of 0 ETH. For the auction, individuals must submit one AI piece from their gallery along with a bid.
The AI piece attached to the winning bid will act as the commission for the 1/1 art.
From there, Simard will use the AI-generated piece as a framework for her next work of art. Following the selection of the winning entry, Simard will undergo a potential year-long journey to attempt to recreate the winning piece in the real world via her own creative process, hiking and shooting until she nails it.
The process itself will breed a whole new pipeline of creative possibilities for Simard, as she intends to “document and share every step of the process through a dedicated page on her website that highlights the project,” as per the press release.
Once Simard finishes up her work, she will mint her piece as an NFT on the collector’s preferred platform, as well as send them a 1/1 physical print of the finished work.
Additionally, the winning piece won’t be the only work of art recognized throughout this process. Each bidder will receive a free mint to include their image (or images) in the commemorative From Nowhere to Somewhere — Creator’s Collection. Each bidder will also receive credits to continue using EpoLabs for creating new pieces of AI art.
Although Simard’s body of work and the budding AI art space may seem completely disparate, Simard says she got the idea for the project while she was playing around with GANs herself. “Back in December 2021, I was playing with the idea of doing a commissioned artwork. I feel like it is something we haven’t seen a lot in the space and that involves complete trust in the artist. I had a few ideas but wanted to take the time to come up with something that would create a unique relationship and collaboration between the collector and myself,” she said to nft now. “A few months later, while playing with DALL-E, I found the idea to create an image that would be based on an AI artwork by the collector. I liked the idea of having a close collaboration with a single collector, where the start of the journey is based on his/her artwork and ends with a unique and personal 1/1 that includes both our identities.”
Indeed, as the AI art space has blossomed, it has been made clear that, at the end of the day, GANs are tools, and thus still require curation and taste from an individual to create art worth preserving. In an August 2022 episode of the nft now podcast, AI artist Claire Silver made this exact point, likening the rise of GANs to, poetically, the invention of the camera. “I like to think of AI as a camera for the imagination,” Silver said.
At the end of the day, all art is expression filtered through the lens of an artist through a specific medium. And for Simard, regardless of the medium, that expression needs to come from a place deep within the artist. “You need to think of your art as an extension of yourself and your soul….In the end, you decide what you do with your art, but remember that your art is your legacy.” For her latest NFT project, Simard is inviting the winning bidder to participate in making a legacy.