This past weekend, the digital art community witnessed a sensation: AI-generated spiral art. A Reddit user named “Ugleh” unveiled an image of a medieval spiral-shaped village, meticulously crafted using AI image generator Stable Diffusion, paired with neural network ControlNet. This geometric masterpiece quickly garnered attention across various social media platforms, eliciting a myriad of reactions from enthusiasts, skeptics, and renowned artists.
The Viral Spiral
The artwork's post on X (formerly Twitter) exploded in popularity, amassing over eight million views and thousands of retweets. This sudden virality prompted other artists to create their own renditions of the spiral phenomenon.
AI SPIRAL pic.twitter.com/nCbnsssyNy
— beeple (@beeple) September 18, 2023
Renowned artists like Beeple and Jack Butcher soon joined the trend, further amplifying its appeal. AI artist Kali Yuga remarked, “Honestly, I've seen a lot of AI-generated art, and this is one of the most amazing works I've ever seen.“
However, as with any trend that gains rapid traction, there were skeptics. Some users expressed admiration for the artwork, while others viewed it as a fleeting fad or a reason to be wary of AI.
For example, AI artist Stephen Vasement suggests all AI spiral works are the same, suggesting “once you've seen one, you've essentially seen them all”. He likens the trend to video and says that AI spiral art may even take way attention from the artist.
Thoughts about spirals:
I think it's a kinda a good step.
People are starting to pay attention to the internal logic within a picture and how you can use AI to distort it. A lot of AI artists have been doing this for a long time, hopefully this surge of interest will lead to…
— Stephan Vasement (@stephanvasement) September 17, 2023
A Shift in Perception Towards AI Art
Historically, AI-generated art has faced criticism, with many believing it lacks the ‘soul' or ‘genuine touch' of human-created artwork. But this narrative is evolving. Paul Graham, co-founder of Y-Combinator, commented on the artwork, stating that it “passed the Turing Test” in his eyes.
This was the point where AI-generated art passed the Turing Test for me. https://t.co/IOcJH1TwJ2
— Paul Graham (@paulg) September 11, 2023
This metaphorical use of the Turing Test suggests that the AI-generated art piece achieved a level of sophistication and emotional resonance that could be mistaken for human-generated art. As AI-generated artworks gain recognition in esteemed settings, the distinction between traditional and AI-driven art is becoming increasingly blurred.
The Magic Behind the Artwork
The secret behind this captivating artwork is ControlNet. Introduced in a research paper titled “Adding Conditional Control to Text-to-Image Diffusion Models,” ControlNet enhances the Stable Diffusion process by providing deeper guidance based on information extracted from source images. This allows artists to replicate specific shapes, patterns, or subjects from an image with heightened precision. In essence, while Stable Diffusion lays the foundation for the image, ControlNet refines the details, bringing the artist's vision to fruition.
The spiral art trend provides a glimpse into the evolving realm of AI art. As perceptions shift from skepticism to appreciation and as more esteemed artists explore the AI domain, it's evident that technology and art are merging in intriguing ways. While debates about copyright, authenticity, and the essence of creativity will continue, the synergy between humans and machines in redefining artistic boundaries remains a topic of fascination.