The errant brush stroke. The accidental musical note.
These can be beautiful. And it’s hard to imagine artificial intelligence producing them.
In the fall of 2023 I interviewed seventy-four artists, across domains — visual arts, music, theater, film, writing — to explore the role and impact of AI on the arts and creativity. Instead of answers, what emerged was a rich array of perspectives, insights and deeper questions about the nature of art, artists, and the creative impulse.
In this series I’ll be sharing insights gleaned from these conversations here in hopes of expanding the thinking around what is gained, lost, and important to watch out for with the increasing presence of AI.
One of the themes that arose again and again: there is beauty in imperfection.
One of the interviewees, painter-printmaker Natalie Barbera, recounts: “Yesterday I was trying to make a mark on a painting. I made a mistake and then stepped back and said, ‘I really like that.’” She goes on to wonder, “Can AI do that?”
Others mention an errant brush stroke, a “wrong” musical note, a surprise gesture or movement in theatrical performance.
Violinist Karsten Windt describes an in-the-moment form of imperfection: the delight of playing rubato, a musical term for expressive, inexact rhythm, “playing around the beat with a slight rubber band between musicians.”
AI conjures something other than spontaneous and potentially wonderful surprises: algorithms, predictions, discrete iteration. When I’ve used the DALL-E and Midjourney AI image generators, cycling through a series of prompts, I only got delivery to order.
This is not to dismiss AI, but rather to highlight the questions AI raises about humanity and art. The rise in generative AI impels us to ask what makes us unique, and that question extends to art. Maybe imperfection is one such distinction. Maybe imperfection connects us with something deeper about nature, life, and ourselves.
Where do you notice beauty in imperfection?