• By The Financial District

AI Wins Art Contest In Colorado; Human Artists Fume

Jason M. Allen was almost too nervous to enter his first art competition. Now, his award-winning image is sparking controversy about whether art can be generated by a computer, and what, exactly, it means to be an artist, Rachel Mertz reported for CNN Business.


Photo Insert: "Théâtre D'opéra Spatial" (French for "Space Opera Theater"), was made with Midjourney — an artificial intelligence system that can produce detailed images when fed written prompts.



In August, Allen, a game designer who lives in Pueblo West, Colorado, won first place in the emerging artist division's "digital arts/digitally-manipulated photography" category at the Colorado State Fair Fine Arts Competition.


His winning image, titled "Théâtre D'opéra Spatial" (French for "Space Opera Theater"), was made with Midjourney — an artificial intelligence system that can produce detailed images when fed written prompts. A $300 prize accompanied his win.



"I'm fascinated by this imagery. I love it. And I think everyone should see it," Allen, 39, told CNN Business in an interview on Friday.


In August, Jason M. Allen's piece "Théâtre D'opéra Spatial" — which he created with AI image generator Midjourney — won first place in the emerging artist division's "digital arts/digitally-manipulated photography" category at the Colorado State Fair Fine Arts Competition.


All the news: Business man in suit and tie smiling and reading a newspaper near the financial district.

Allen's winning image looks like a bright, surreal cross between a Renaissance and steampunk painting. It's one of three such images he entered in the competition. In total, 11 people entered 18 pieces of art in the same category in the emerging artist division.


The definition of the category for which Allen competed states that digital art refers to works that use "digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process." Allen stated that Midjourney was used to create his image when he entered the contest, he said.


Entrepreneurship: Business woman smiling, working and reading from mobile phone In front of laptop in the financial district.

The newness of these tools, how they're used to produce images, and, in some cases, the gatekeeping for access to some of the most powerful ones has led to debates about whether they can truly make art or assist humans in making art.


This came into sharp focus for Allen not long after his win.


Science & technology: Scientist using a microscope in laboratory in the financial district.

Allen posted excitedly about his win on Midjourney's Discord server on August 25, along with pictures of his three entries; it went viral on Twitter days later, with many artists angered by Allen's win because of his use of AI to create the image, as a story by Vice's Motherboard reported earlier this week.


"This sucks for the exact same reason we don't let robots participate in the Olympics," one Twitter user wrote.


"This is the literal definition of 'pressed a few buttons to make a digital art piece,'" another Tweeted. "AI artwork is the 'banana taped to the wall' of the digital world now."



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