Creating and curating
Pablo Picasso made 50,000 artworks during his lifetime. His first major exhibition was at a gallery on Paris’ renowned rue Laffitte in 1901, aged 20. But he started exhibiting when he was 13. His father was a painter, art professor and curator at a local museum and supported his son’s talent by arranging shows for Pablo’s paintings. Today, Picasso is still one of the most exhibited artists in the world, with four of his works on the list of the fifty most famous paintings, and he continues to be an inspiration for thousands of artists and millions of school art projects.
Would Picasso’s creativity have had such an impact on the world without his work having such curation?
Curation is more than just a collection of creativity, more than distribution of creative work. It is the careful and considered selecting and organising of artworks. Good curation takes expertise and knowledge about topic and about how to curate. If creativity is the combining of previously unrelated things to produce something novel, then curation is the combining of related things to produce something coherent. It is often over-looked and under-appreciated, but without it creativity remains disconnected and artworks only exist in isolation.
Creating and curating need each other. They work together, feed each other.
DALL-E is a machine learning neural network that creates images from natural language text
. You type a description of the image you want, something like “panda drinking a milkshake in the style of Picasso” and DALL-E generates some images that look like Picasso might have painted if he’d been into pandas drinking milkshake. Is that creative?
Is the person describing the image being creative, or is the technology generating the image? Is DALL-E just the modern version is brushes and canvas and the more skilled the artist is at describing the image to be created, the better the work of art? DALL-E hides the creative process. It takes place in the translating of ideas into ones and zeros rather than by paint on a canvas, but it isn’t any less of a creative process.
As soon as there is natural language processing to generate images, there is a need for people who are good at writing the words to be processed. These prompt artists sell their work on marketplaces like Promptbase to show their skills in being able to generate just the image you’re looking for. But it’s not hard to imagine those artists quickly replaced by a technology that could bring together ideas of previously unrelated things and describe them to DALL-E in ways that human’s couldn’t to produce artworks we’ve never even imagined. Infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters creating every variation of image possible. Is that curation?
It is a collection, but as long as every artwork is treated equally, it isn’t curation. It doesn’t rely on knowledge and expertise to filter from all that is available and select those that relate and connect. Curation offers more than that. Perhaps as creativity and the creative act becomes even more abstract and mediated by technology, curation of the works in meaningful ways becomes even more important for making sense of the world.
“Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” - Picasso.