Denmark’s Louisiana Museum Ponders Humanity’s Obsolescence
With artificial intelligence intruding on our creativity, a new exhibition asks what's unique about human beings?
Josh Kline's Productivity Gains (Brandon/Accountant) (2016). 3D-printed sculpture. 55 x 69 x 140 cm. Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Christian Øen.
In January, Nick Cave wrote a letter to Mark, a man in Christchurch, New Zealand, who used ChatGPT to generate a song in the Australian balladeer's distinctive style. Cave responded with a heart-felt letter saying that the song Mark generated 'sucks'.
'Songs arise out of suffering, by which I mean they are predicated upon the complex, internal human struggle of creation and, well, as far as I know, algorithms don't feel,' he said. 'Data doesn't suffer.'
A video of Stephen Fry reading Cave's words at the Letters Live show at London's Royal Albert Hall in November is now being shared widely on social media.
That AI might deprive us of the pleasure and pain of creating is a possibility considered in the exhibition The Irreplaceable Human—Conditions of Creativity in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, which opened today at The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen.
'The exhibition stems from a concern about structural imbalances in modern society—not least in relation to children and young people today,' said Louisiana curator Mathias Ussing Seeberg.
The exhibition features contributions from science and literature along with works by more than 60 artists.
Among them is Tetsuya Ishida, whose paintings depict people as economic inputs—office chairs, conveyor belts, diggers, and so on. He has become a popular choice for representing the erosion of humanity and human creativity under later and later-stage capitalism.
'In some respects, [Ishida's] acknowledgment of the impact of machines and technology resonates and feels more urgent now than in the late 1990s when the works were first made,' Gagosian's Nick Simunovic told Ocula in October.
In Mebae (Awakening) (1998) students become microscopes, capable of capturing data without knowing why.
Josh Kline's Productivity Gains (Brandon/Accountant) (2016) (pictured top) goes even further, seeing humanity not only reduced to an input but one that's no longer needed.
The sculpture is one of a series of 3D-prints of real people scanned at a time when they were out of work. Curled up into a ball and bagged in plastic, Brandon is presented as waste, surplus to economic requirements.
While the first part of The Irreplaceable Human focuses on how we develop creativity—in childhood, at work, and through artificial intelligence—the second looks at how we cultivate our humanity.
Divided into two chapters, Time and Cross-pollination, it asks for a reconsideration of practices that are redundant, unimportant, bad for business, or just difficult to evaluate.
In his letter, Cave argued that human creativity comes from human experience, and cannot be replaced by AI.
'ChatGPT's melancholy role is that it is destined to imitate and can never have an authentic human experience, no matter how devalued and inconsequential the human experience may in time become,' he wrote.
The Irreplaceable Human continues through 1 April 2024. —[O]