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  • Writer's pictureHassan Ragab

What is (Ai) Kitsch in a world of industrialized art aesthetics?

I read something this morning about AI, art, and aesthetics. The argument was that AI lacks aesthetics and that most AI-generated work is kitsch.

This isn't a new thought for me. Much of my work revolves around understanding these terms. While I agree that much of the AI "art" out there is kitsch (and I personally don't believe the term "AI art" should exist, as it contributes to the kitsch label), I found myself conflicted with this art theorist's statement.On one hand, the whole point of AI for me is to challenge the status quo of art aesthetics, which I never liked. Contemorary art aesthetics often seem divorced from reality, more focused on technical mastery than meaningful statements. The current state of the art world is anything but coherent, fair, or understandable. It's so ambiguous that setting a strict aesthetic standard is precisely why contemporary art often feels unartistic.

As an architect, I have an inherent conservatism that places part of me on the far right of the spectrum in terms of structure and order. However, who am I (or anyone else) to impose a rigid framework on what is good or beautiful? The global, generic perspective defining these ambiguous terms often comes from Western, political, or economic influences, lacking an objective understanding of different perspectives. Western aesthetics that define minimalism and post-digital era construction techniques aren't necessarily applicable everywhere. Yet, these standards are often imposed universally. Defying this is an act of rebellion that many can't endure.

I dislike framing everything as "us against them," "East against West," or blaming "Orientalism" for all evils of the past 500 years. I believe in equality and that we are all global citizens. Our biases dictate aesthetics, not any special authority. Art is about absolute freedom, even from terms like aesthetics or kitsch. Perhaps we should replace "kitsch" with "sincerity." Otherwise, we'll continue living in an industrialized concept of how art (and anything with emotional content) should be shaped.

I'd like to end on this note: Generative AI art tools have only been around for a few years, developing rapidly. Naturally, much of what we create with AI will be kitsch or lack traditional aesthetics, oversaturated with aesthetics or biased due to technical reasons. Social media, as the primary platform for this new type of expression, pushes a global direction based on algorithms and false metrics of success. There's an aristocratic view of what art is and should be, lacking humility and empathy for most people. This isn't so different from any other period in human history, except for the exponential impact of our current technology. So, if you're listening out there, whether you're creative or not, artist or not, kitsch or aristocrat, just stay sincere and remember your fellow humans.

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