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Seventeen years ago, Pindar Van Arman built a robot that, like him, painted with a brush on canvas.
He has built several robots since, with each iteration possessing a more sophisticated artificial intelligence that tried to paint “more like I painted.”
The term OG can be thrown around often undeservedly, but Van Arman is truly that when it comes to AI art.
He created his first crypto art project in 2015 — titled bitPaintr — and minted his first Ethereum nonfungible token (NFT) in 2018 titled “AI Imagined Portrait Painted by a Robot” on SuperRare.
“It was really hard in 2015 because I had the challenge of trying to explain the tech in an emotional way. It triggered a visceral reaction where people would say, ‘Well, wait, these are robots that can’t be emotional,’” says Van Arman.
“I’d got hate mail back then when people would say it’s hard enough for artists to make a living. Now, we have to compete with robots. There were a lot of barriers back then.”
Validity of AI art
For the cynics that question the validity of AI art, Van Arman agrees with them to a degree but makes a distinction between AI being labeled as an artist versus being creative.
“The thing I agree with them on is that AI can’t make art. But AI is a tool that can be used to make art by an artist. When you put it in those terms, no one can really disagree with you. They may not like it, but it’s hard for them to disagree,” Van Arman says.
“Here’s where it gets controversial though, here’s the middle ground that I claim which I know is true because I see it and I program it; AI cannot be an artist. AI can be creative. Creative in a very similar way that humans are creative.”
Van Arman is no stranger to having people’s eyes glaze over when explaining his work.
“All the questioning and doubt over the years told me I was on to the right thing because when you have artists in the art world saying that your stuff is too weird, you sort of know you’re on to something. I mean, artists are the most avant-garde, forward thinking group of people there are,” says Van Arman.
“For artists and art curators not to get something that you know is true and for them to say…