Thanks to all for the discussion about this. After reading through the thread, I had a number of thoughts to share.
I remembered a conceptual distinction that used to be a big part of my life, the difference between Beauty and glamour.
As noted above, glamour is etymologically linked to grammar. There's an interesting piece
by graphic novel writer Alan Moore that dives into this glamour/grammar/spellcasting aspect of art. Although he uses the term magic as a way to talk about the way that art can cause a change in consciousness, and considers himself a wizard or whatever, I like the points he brings together, which I think pertains to these AI generated photos as an example of glamour. There is a certain impression I get from them, a particular way they touch my consciousness.
Maybe we can consider that Beauty is Beauty because it has the potential to transform us and maybe awaken or feed something deep in our Souls in some way when it touches our consciousness, whereas glamour is something different. Although it is aesthetically pleasing, or even quite striking, it doesn't nourish or awaken in the same way, and maybe even functions to put us deeper into sleep. I didn't really notice much of an inner response to the photos personally, most likely 'cuz I was feeling a little out of it while reading along and I had been reading for a few hours at that point. It did seem to me that there was something missing, though.
Your use of the word reproduction caught my eye. The development of new technology and its affects on art, with corresponding effects on the human sense of Beauty has been a matter of discussion for a long time. There seems to be a certain trend, where in the face of technological advances, some portion of the population is very resistant. This resistance expresses itself usually by idolizing the former days of glory, which are understood to be more honest, authentic, and simpler. However, there's also a danger here. In the book The Invention of Tradition
, it's clear that traditions are sometimes just created whole cloth, and the idealized past is just a fantasy. This is striking in the case of the Scottish kilt - and also the entire Scottish clan system - which apparently was invented and then back-projected as ancient during the advances of industrialism! One really wonderful example of this romanticization of the past and resistance to technological change in the Arts and Crafts movement.
They sought to 'wage holy war against the age' by becoming involved in every step in the process of artistic production, attempting to become holistic artisans. I admit, I appreciate their spunk!
Of particular note in this vein of art history is Walter Benjamin's essay 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
The 'aura', according to Benjamin, belongs to the original work of art in and of itself, a product of its specific location and time. So back in the day, there was only one painting of Da Vinci's 'The Virgin of the Rocks'. It was a product of Da Vinci's Being, and his Being was synchronized or even channeling in the context of a particular place and time. There is the individual and the environment in an exchange that is transferred or recorded onto the paper or canvas. This results in a sort of energetic vibe that resonates throughout the ages as one specific and unique aura. Interesting to see the Lethbridge material mentioned, and how there is a huge difference when an original work of art is dowsed by a pendulum versus a mechanical reproduction. And I think it's understandable how mechanical reproduction devalues artwork, if only in the basic sense that if there is only one 'The Virgin of the Rocks' in the world, then it becomes quite an event and perhaps even and adventure to lay eyes on it, versus being able to type it into Google and see it at your convenience.
Benjamin quotes Paul Valery, who wrote this bit in 1928, but is easily applicable today.
This has me thinking that time is a central issue with these images. Is part of the fascination the speed at which the images are generated? Speed has its time and place for sure, but it is a pretty dangerous obsession. Seems to me that speed has become an unspoken expectation, with one result being that instant gratification is everywhere at this stage in the hysteroidal cycle. Technology changes space and time (or changes with changes in space and time) as mentioned by Valery above. There's this idea that the speeding up of the world tends to eradicate old distances, and not just geographically, like in the transformation caused by the personal automobile, but also psychologically in the distance between wanting something and getting it. I think the way in which technology changes our lives, our minds, and our world is probs one of the most discussed topics in the world, whether its in the field of art history or sci-fi novels or cursing God because the internet is slow and I want to watch this movie right-freaking-now.
I've noticed that I have expected a lot from the world, expected from myself and others, and taken a lot for granted, especially now with the ponderings about the fall of the system that has provided me with the heat, water, electricity, food and clothes and internet, as well as art and entertainment, etc. Although I have really liked improving self-sufficiency skills, in general I have expected to not have to 'pay' very much for any of what I've received, in the sense of paying for it with the time allotted to me on this planet
- to pay via patience when that longing for a certain something arrives. Still working on that one. It's pretty normal to want various kinds suffering to be over with speed, but in certain cases it is better to go down into the grief - as Khalil Gibran wrote, sorrow is what empties out your cup so that it can be filled again.
Side trip into Healing Developmental Trauma:
It's then stated that attention to qualia and their coherent reentry is the single-most-important feature of higher brain organization - it's the basis of our perception of reality. And I notice that emotion, motivation and experience are listed there are major influences, too. I don't think an AI has these guiding influences (or does it?!), and as such, the reentry it creates will always lack heart, drive, and a sense of being-in-the-world with all of its joys and sufferings.
So, trying to put some of this together, if the 'aura' of a work of art is an energy, could that energy could be understood as a set of frequencies, disparate waveform aspects of the qualia
of the piece that coalesce into a coherent whole upon reentry? Frequency is the rate at which something occurs, which has to do with both time and speed in a way I don't really understand. There's something very important about the time the artist 'spends', as a form of energetic payment - from all of the years in training while developing the craft, growing into maturity through challenges, to the point of conception or the inspiration of a piece, and then on top of that all of the diligent hours at work in a creative state... it's all quite a lot to put together. This all contributes to the frequency of the aura of the whole piece. The artist would be like the conductor of an orchestra of thought, sensation, and emotion - and maybe also a 'conductor' in the electric sense, who has somehow made possible the process of grounding a flow of Beauty in the world, where the aura upon reentry is recognizable as something very precious to whomever looks at it because of its singularity. If the eyes are the window into the Soul, they are also probably the window out of the Soul as well, and in great works of art we can catch of glimpse of the Seeing of another. In this line of thinking, our perception of the aura of work of visual art is kinda like listening to an orchestra with our eyes.