Is AI promoting the renaissance of the arts?

Artificial Intelligence is having a significant impact on the cinema industry. Segmento meets film director Dale Crawford to discuss the role of AI in filmmaking.

Every year, the Victorian Multicultural Commission, in partnership with the Swinburne University of Technology, organizes a Multicultural Film Festival showcasing short films that portray everyday multiculturalism through powerful, uplifting, and thought-provoking films. At last year’s edition, the music video AKOSIA - GO was presented. Here, Ghanaian-Australian AKOSIA is a woman cyborg. Initially trapped in the embrace of a golden skeleton in the womb of a foreign planet, she finds the inner strength to free herself. The short video was recently shortlisted at various worldwide film festivals–the Kalakari Film Festival in India and the Global Network Lift-Off Film Festival.

Dale Crawford

Segmento met its director, Dale Crawford. A talented young film director and screenwriter, he is also an actor and a martial artist/choreographer. While this music video uses artificial intelligence to create the landscape around the singer, Dale has worked on other videos for the singer, where her facial expressions are artificially generated. This creative process was unimaginable a few years ago, but technology has rapidly evolved. The pandemic accelerated these changes because the media needed to evolve to get around restrictions that prevented people from meeting on set.

AKOSIA's EP Black Diamond. Photo Michelle Grace Hunder.Artwork Dale Crawford

“The fact that a set can be created on a computer frees the directors from having to find the right place, from having to wait for the optimal light to shoot, or to wait for rain if the scene requires it,” explains Dale. “But it goes beyond that; it means the budget can be lowered when many extras are needed, to the extreme that actors could no longer be required as machines learn to simulate human emotions.” These developments provide endless opportunities for creating and, of course, for sharing content. We cannot predict where the film industry is going:

We walk with the past in front of us. It slowly fades in front of our eyes as we head backwards towards the future unfolding behind us. We cannot predict what will happen, but we can learn from what happened before us as we witnessed it. New media displaces other media, allowing for their re-invention. For example, the invention of photography freed painting from realistically capturing our surroundings, and abstract painting was born. Today AI is allowing artists to make art in previously unimaginable ways.

AKOSIA’s single Go. Photo Dale Crawford.Artwork Dale Crawford

Simultaneously we are overwhelmed by images but don’t necessarily engage with them in meaningful ways.
We now consume art in different ways; our ability to process large amounts of images has increased, but this has not corresponded to an improvement in our visual literacy. On the other hand, our predecessors staring at the Sistine Chapel were much better than at understanding the message portrayed by Michelangelo.

We are at a crossroads, and a dystopian vision is a common response to imagining the future. Yet, Dale’s most optimistic prediction is the birth of creative hubs, like the Vatican used to be during the Renaissance when artistic production boomed thanks to the investment of the wealthiest patrons.

Cover: AKOSIA’s music video for the song Better. Image Colin Anderson. Artwork Dale Crawford