By: Giannis Bairaktaris and Christos Makridis
Following two years of closure due to Covid-19, the Athens Fashion Film Festival (AFFF) returned on March 14th for the fourth year with an interdisciplinary theme of “Art-istic OR Art-ificial?” held at the Athens Conservatory under the leadership of Nicole Alexandropoulou. Following an opening ceremony and remarks from Patrizia Falcinelli, the ambassador of Italy to Greece, the festival brought together people from different creative and scientific disciplines.
Art-istic OR Art-ificial?
One of the most interesting discussions took place on the second day of the festival. The roundtable examining the central theme of the 4th AFFF “Art-istic OR Art-ificial?: Artificial Intelligence in Human Creativity” presented the results of a workshop that students from the Creative Fashion Design and the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering of the National Technical University of Athens collaborated on to build designs with AI and traditional tools.
In setting the stage for the roundtable, Nicole Alexandropoulou remarked that “AI can help you in planning and forecasting around the commercial dimension and marketing… you can reduce the waste in production and compress the time it takes to build.” In many ways, AI is an extension of existing technological advances, which have been linked with improvements in employee well-being, according to research published in the journal Technological Forecasting and Social Change.
“Another benefit is that AI can offer alternatives that the creator hasn’t thought of. Through the panel at our festival, I realized that the audience is very interested in this new reality. What they were most interested in is how AI can ultimately be a tool to support human creativity hopefully not replace it,” Alexandropoulou continued.
The roundtable explored not only the current, but also the future applications of AI in the realm of artistic productivity, with a particular emphasis on fashion. The students who took part in the workshop and crafted their projects both manually and with tools like DALL-E and Midjourney expressed that AI provides benefits, including: quickness, user-friendliness, and a range of creative concepts. They emphasized that the “artist” remains in charge, as they establish the guidelines for the system to follow.
The results were evaluated and commented upon in a discussion by the workshop organizers: Orsalia Parthenis, fashion designer and artistic director, and Giorgos Stamou, professor at the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering of the National Technical University of Athens, together with the artist Kyriaki Goni.
Recognizing that the artistic and cultural sectors, face the growing influence of AI, the panel began by exploring whether machines can eventually replace human creativity. However, according to Giorgos Stamou “AI is not synonymous with creation; rather, it pertains to production and execution.”
However, the roundtable discussion made clear that peoples’ perception of creative ownership must also evolve. “Creation must presuppose independence, but how different are you when you use the machine, what does it mean for work to be original, and will too much variety eventually bring us to homogenization… these will be answered gradually,” said Orsalia Parthenis.
Much like people use cars to get from one location to another, and thus do not take credit for walking long distances anymore, people may also get more comfortable using AI to augment their creative production. In this sense, the artist must define how the machine will work, rather than let external conditions dictate their creative process.
The conversation revealed that many of the concerns about AI are rooted in the fear of humans losing their creative ownership with the complexity and automation of AI systems. Even if the legal ownership of the created work is clear, the question remains whether those in the arts and culture sectors feel comfortable ceding some of their creative control over to algorithms. “Issues like these were raised with very keen interest from the crowd. It is our wish to delve deeper next year, as we do every year at this festival,” Alexandropoulou continued.
Nevertheless, there are some broader socio-political challenges ahead before the arts can fully leverage AI models. “Unfortunately the data is held by some companies as an oligopoly… the data must be returned to citizens: we first have to claim ownership of the data that belongs to us, and then we have to look at the bias,” said Giorgos Stamou.
Warning of the dangers to removing humans from the creative process, Stamou continued: “Creativity comes from the diversity of human life and emotion… if man leaves experience, diversity will disappear, and machines will bring homogenization. The artist with his experience must define how the machine will work, not the other way round.”
While artificial intelligence is a powerful tool, it cannot entirely substitute human creativity – at least not now. “In my view, while machines may emerge as a significant factor in the creation process, the artist’s perspective will always remain crucial, as the act of creation demands both empathy and experience that only a human touch can provide”, Alexandropoulou concluded. Future years of the AFFF are bound to provide similarly engaging and thoughtful discussions and expressions of talent in fashion, art, technology, and beyond.