Opening Speech by Debbie Cloete. Curator of ALEXA MKE SOME ART

Published 21 May 2024 in Media Blogs

Debbie Cloete – Opening address 18 May 2024

Welcome to the opening of Alexa make some art. 

Lucy came up with the idea for an AI exhibition last year in November when we hosted Ivan Du Toit’s virtual reality studio visit at Apogee Hotel, she asked me to curate, I said ok…and here we are.

The artists I decided to invite are mostly people that I know and have known over time as contemporaries and as friends and one or two that I found, by default almost, on Instagram. The nice thing about Instagram is that if you teach it well, it often shows you what you like, which is helpful.

The brief was simple. Engage, generate and respond – with, through and to technology.

Something that I occurred to me one night a few weeks ago is that I chose people who I actually like and who’s work I actually like …and I started thinking about commonality and I realised that the very obvious thing that we all share is time. 

The average of our ages is 49, someone who is 49 was born in 1974, a mind-boggling thought. Most of us were there in the beginning. The reality we live in today was the Science fiction of our youth. It is quite awesome to belong to a generation that has grown, with and through all of it. Fearlessly.

I use the word fearless with intent and specifically in the context of art making with reference to the works you see around you. If you read the artists’ statements you will see that we are not intimidated by these new tools. We are not afraid of being replaced.

I think that this speaks to the very nature of who we are. As artists we have thoughts, these thoughts become ideas and then, the compulsion to materialise the idea….to see it. And we can do this successfully only by mastering a medium. 

This process by its very nature involves struggle (the part we love to hate), perseverance and intuition and ultimately, innovation. These things combined have no limits. 

All of the artists here have experienced the limits of AI and have chosen to intervene, by suppling source imagery, through concept or by adding tactile mediums post-print. 

It can’t do what we want it to do without us…. what we can do.

Tactile mediums have opinions, they fight back and force us to learn, AI can only respond and is more often than not, very predictable.

Lena and Errol generated their statements through prompts with CHAT GPT and I quote, “While AI may excel in data processing and algorithmic generation, I choose to reclaim control over the representation of my own image.”

Beautifully ironic…what you see around you is the control we have reclaimed.

I believe that the immediate and future threat that AI poses, especially to the generations that were born into this new world is laziness. I have had countless discussions with educators and students on both high school and tertiary levels to support this.

……why should I do it if someone/something can do it for me?” is the mind-set. I have stood in a class room of Grade 12 learners and posed the question, what do you think, what is your opinion? And been met with dead silence.

Here in lies the threat, the looming reality of a human race incapable of free thought. But this is the can of worms that I have neither the time or inclination to open on this particular Saturday morning. I’ll leave that to you.

Artists and thinkers are not lazy people and I do believe that we might just be the facilitators of a hope that perseveres into this seemingly dismal future ahead.

Again, I’d like to quote CHAT GPT from Lena’s statement, “In a world where technology may promise solutions, it is the human touch—the empathy, the intuition—that truly connects us to one another and to ourselves. “

And in my own words a question. Is it not truly the only reason that we are here? To connect with one another and to connect with ourselves, to know empathy and to know kindness.

Thank you to all of you who chose the gallery over the mall today, enjoy the show, and buy some art!


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