AI Images and Visual Culture – A Case Study of the Portrait of Edmond De Belamy

Conference: The Asian Conference on Media, Communication & Film (MediAsia2022)
Title: AI Images and Visual Culture – A Case Study of the Portrait of Edmond De Belamy
Stream: Visual Communication
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Jinu Kunjumon Varghese, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, India


René Magritte’s iconic artwork "This is not a Pipe" regains its importance in the age of Artificial Intelligent (AI) driven visual culture. Modern visual culture raises concerns about the very nature of visuality as a result of the mediatization of new media and the effects of digitalization and digital platforms on popular culture. By separating the cultural domain from the conventional rules established by traditional media, digital platforms and cultural industries have revolutionized the creation and dissemination of visual cultural output. AI is saturating the realm of popular culture, in which humans have been traditionally primary actors. Mega media and cultural giants focus on AI to further develop and produce new forms of popular visual culture, and digital economy. AI and its machine learning (ML) are profoundly transforming the ways that images are produced, modified, circulated, and seen. ML algorithms now take over the world of art, which was once thought to be the ultimate expression of humanity. Realistic and aesthetically pleasing AI-generated images pose the question, How do these AI-generated images influence our visual culture? What impact does this new visuality that AI has on culture? This essay considers the infamous Christie's sale of the portrait of Edmond de Belamy in 2018 to examine the socio-cultural aspects of AI-generated images in popular visual culture.

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