Artificial intelligence, art, capitalist contradictions


By Justine S., Red Phoenix correspondent, Minnesota.

What is the Marxist-Leninist perspective on Artificial Intelligence (AI) generated art?

Firstly what is art? Bourgeois academics and artists alike tell us that art is beauty, truth, something which captures an idea, something that represents skill, hard work, something valuable that should be paid for.

And what is AI? Capitalist tech enthusiasts like Elon Musk and proselytizers in the crypto-sphere tell us that AI liberates society from bourgeois academics and artists, liberates from snobbery, and gives access to making the highest forms of art for those who lack skill, but who have an idea.

But to the working class — all workers, from the Starbucks barista, to the Uber driver, to the Amazon warehouse worker, and to the youth — AI art is something fun to do on TikTok after clocking out.

As usual, the workers’ perception is closest to the truth. Marxists understand that art – not any one individual piece of art but all art taken together – has a class nature. Our beliefs about what art is, what its value is, are sculpted by capitalists.

We are led to believe that 1) a piece of art belongs exclusively to those who buy it on the market, taking over the legal ownership from the artists themselves (the buyers are often large corporations); 2) art requires talent, and a skill reserved for the chosen few; and 3) a piece of art represents the perfect vision of the artist.

These are capitalist myths. Art defined this way discourages the art of working people from ever seeing the light of day. If you cannot afford the “right materials,” if you aren’t trained in a conservatory, and if your art doesn’t match the aesthetic preferences of the elite, it’s not really art, so they say. Instead they label it as a quirk, maybe a hobby at best. The dances you create for TikTok, the doodles you make on the inside of your notebook, the gut-busting songs you make up with your friends, your coworkers, your comrades — all of it is buried, suppressed. We are made to be ashamed that our art is not good enough. We are told to stop goofing off, to put our heads down and work. Only the art of the elite is valued, distributed, and loved.

We are also told that collaborating with others ruins our individual artistic voice, and isn’t really art. But community is the lifeblood of art. Arts are languages, and it makes no sense at all to have a language that only one person speaks. The elites know this very well because all of their great art is the result of collaboration. George Lucas, Beyonce, Greg Rutkowski: all of their art is the result of great teams of people, built on the languages of people for hundreds of millennia before. Yet their art is sold as a product of their individual mind. With this belief that making art in community is “cheating,” the bourgeoisie sets us up for failure. They ensure our art will never see the light of day. Marxist-Leninists can see a clear parallel to a contradiction inherent in capitalism: exploitative ownership of social production, where one individual or one minority class extracts all of the profits and accolades produced by the working masses.

Promises of democratization from crypto-peddlers like Jeanne Anderson and Elon Musk about AI art only make sense if our art — our proletarian art, our workers’ art — is worthless. It assumes that if we don’t appeal to elite tastes, our art is somehow wrong. These entrepreneurs promise you the results of bourgeois art without any resources or toil, just as they promise that cryptocurrency will make you rich.

They start from a false premise: that mimicking the styles of the bourgeoisie allows you to achieve your liberation and recognition. That you too will be an elite artist. The paradox of their vision of democracy is the belief that all of us can gain access to elite status, and become as rich, as famous, as revered as classical artists, if only it were easier to create “great art.” That belief imbues the popular styles of bourgeoisie with a metaphysical significance – good artists are good because they produce this aesthetic, and if we have access to this aesthetic, we can easily produce good art. But good art is socially determined, dependent on relationships between classes. Constructing bourgeois art as “good” devalues proletarian art.  The only way to gain our liberation, artistically and economically, is for workers to take power, for the taste and language of the proletariat to become the taste and language of society.

Conversely we see the cultural reaction of liberal artists, who claim that AI art devalues the artist, infringes copyright, and is not “real” art because it doesn’t require skill. These same artists will steal folk aesthetics, workers’ art (often Black, Indigenous, Arab, Persian, Indian, and Chinese art styles) to claim that it belongs to them, that they should have the exclusive right to sell it. These liberals simply repeat the ideology of the bourgeoisie of art as a commodity, and moreover never challenge the faux progressiveness of those who promote AI art.

AI-generated art is like any other artistic tool or technology. It has potential in construction and reinterpretation of culture, but is cynically used by capitalists and reactionaries. They suppress proletarian culture and subordinate art to the interests of the bourgeoisie. Only under workers’ control of the means of production can this technology be creatively used in the hands of the proletarian artist.

Categories: Internet, Media & Culture, U.S. News

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