AI art has generated a lot of buzz among people, especially traditional artists questioning the consequences of using artificial intelligence for the creative act particularly based on human intuition and emotion. Midjourney, an independent research lab that produces a proprietary artificial intelligence program creating images from textual descriptions, has become the most popular program among others since its upgrade to version 4 - an all new code base and AI architecture that gives ultra-realistic results.
The popularity of AI art has given birth to a very spirited social debate about the future of traditional artists and the ethical aspect of these programs as they are built on and produce results drawing from a vast database of different artists and artistic styles that have a great chance of being copyrighted. Many netizens are calling AI art 'stolen' artwork because of the references it uses to give you the results you want.
The other side has proponents of the programs like Midjourney like its founder David Holz who says he sees artists as customers, not competitors, of Midjourney. And a lot of people share his optimism; as opposed to looking at AI art as a death of human imagination, they believe that it can be used as tool to propel our imagination to newer heights and aid an efficient manifestation of our ideas. Authors are using the program to create book covers, fashion designers are generating mood boards with their desirable colour palettes, musicians are commissioning work from AI artists to create unique music videos and people in the film and visual art industry are making storyboards and conceptual characters for their projects with AI.
Dystopian futuristic themes have flooded the work of AI artists, but an Indian director, writer & producer is going the other way and delving into the past. Hridaye A. Nagpal who directed the 2021 short film with Neha Dhupia, 'Step Out', has been posting his creations with Midjourney on his Instagram account. Among a sea of AI art, his series of photos stand out as he creates conceptual narratives of badass queer characters from a 90s' India.
Here's what the director describes the project as, "The forgotten queer crime fighting gangs of the 90's. They prowled the streets in the dead of night, taking down villains with a fierce sense of justice and a whole lot of sass. Their fearless actions paved the way for a brighter, safer future for us all."
Hridaye's series is created using some highly-detailed prompts in Midjourney with attention to the lighting, costumes, ethnicity, age and framing syles. The illustrations of these queer gang-members are hyper-realistic and almost feel like photographs taken on Kodachrome or Kodak Portra 400. The costumes and background also work in favour of creating a quintessential Indian setting in a retro timeline.
The director has created other projects within the similar theme like 'Queer Gods' and 'Intergalactic Pride Party'. Expanding the representation of LGBTQIA+ community in fictional and conceptual characters, the director is normalising queer identities in a world where they are still considered a minority and are often undermined in performative pseudo-activism.
Throughout history, art movements like impressionism and expressionism have only reflected the direction of social ideologies. In waves, new schools of thought emerged and even newer ones took over in rebellion. So it only makes sense that we have AI programs now to cater to our overstimulated imaginations. Self-expression and representation is crucial in a time where we're collectively moving towards a more equal and inclusive world. And despite some valid resistance, AI programs are giving people the chance to create those worlds and characters that they wish would exist in the real one. Playing with retrofuturism and transhumanism, AI artists are questioning and stretching the boundaries of what and who we can be, which has always been the point of art.
Check out the series below and follow Hridaye here.