The Winner of a Colorado Art Competition Used AI

Jason Allen's Théåtre D'opéra Spatial was generated using an AI through Midjourney.

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Allen’s use of Midjourney begs the question of where exactly AI fits in the creation of art.
Allen’s use of Midjourney begs the question of where exactly AI fits in the creation of art.
Image: whiteMocca (Shutterstock)

Many of us have had our fun with AI art generators—like DALL-E—over the last few months, but one artist in Colorado took it a step further and won the state fair’s fine art competition with a work generated with the help of an algorithm.

Jason Allen, CEO of tabletop game company Incarnate Games, submitted his piece, titled Théåtre D’opéra Spatial, to the Digital Arts/Digitally-Manipulated section of the Colorado State Fair Fine Arts competition, and he won. The sci-fi-esque piece features a figure in a white dress that appears to be standing in front of a massive circular window—almost like something from Denis Villeneuve’s Dune with a dash of The Foundation—and was generated using an AI engine from Midjourney.

“I’ve set out to make a statement using Midjourney in a competitive manner and wow!” Allen wrote on Discord, under the username Sincarnate, which was posted as a screenshot on Twitter by Genel Jumalon. “I could not be more excited about having won with my favorite piece: ‘Theatre d’Opera Spatial’”

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While he was rightfully excited about taking the top prize, the internet...well, it did what it does best.

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Despite the criticism, Allen’s standing behind his work. Per his Discord post, he claims to have created “100s of images” and spent “many weeks of fine tuning” the AI in order to arrive at his finished product, and wound up selecting three to print on canvas for submission. The Colorado State Fair Fine Arts competition guidelines defines the Digital Arts as an “artistic practice that uses digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process,” which sounds exactly like what Allen was doing, but Allen’s use of AI begs the question as to whether he should be honored.

I think the question is less of whether or not Allen deserves his award, and instead one of where we draw the line with artificial intelligence in the arts. While Allen relied on AI from Midjourney to develop his piece, other artists may have used a tool like Photoshop—which features plenty of AI tools in its toolbox for image editing.