AI Art in Korea: ‘Commune with…’

2 min read

On October 31, 2019, Korea’s first AI art gallery had a special session where hyperrealism artist Doomin and founder of an AI art startup Pulse9 Jieun Park discussed the ‘Commune with…’ project. It is said to be the world’s first art collaboration between a human artist and artificial intelligence.


Located on the 2nd floor of HSR Epicenter, an accelerator founded by Global Entrepreneur Foundation, AIA Art Gallery currently houses several AI paintings, with ‘Commune with…’ placed as the centerpiece of the first art exhibition.

Commune: to converse or talk together, usually with profound intensity, intimacy

collaboration art piece #1: Pen Drawing of Dokdo (photo from Pulse 9 website)
collaboration art piece #1: Pen Drawing of Dokdo (photo from Pulse 9 website)

collaboration art piece #2: Painting of Dokdo (photo from Pulse 9 website)
collaboration art piece #2: Painting of Dokdo (photo from Pulse 9 website)

‘Commune with…’ consists of two art pieces of Dokdo Island — a highly controversial area of dispute between Japan and Korea. In the first piece, Pulse 9’s AI art algorithm ‘Imagine AI’ printed its blue pen drawing on the bottom half of hanji (traditional Korean handmade paper) whereas the human artist Doomin finished the top half with red ink. In the second piece, ‘Imagine AI’ painted the bottom half using an Oriental painting technique and Doomin finished the top part of the painting in a Western painting style.

South Korea and Japan have argued over Dokdo Island’s sovereignty for more than 300 years.

According to South Korea, Dokdo was recognized by Japan as Korean territory in 1696 following an altercation between Japanese and Korean fishermen. But, in 1905, despite allegedly being under formal jurisdiction of Korea’s Uldo county, the islands were annexed by Japan ahead of its occupation of the peninsula, which lasted for 35 years up until 1945. According to Korea, the islands were “rightly” restored to them at the end of World War II. Japan disagrees. (Alexandra Genova, ‘National Geographic’)

“The emergence of AI in art is the same as that of a camera in art history. When the camera first came into the world, people said that human paintings would become obsolete, but like impressionism, abstract expression, and surrealism, human doubt succumbed in ways only humans could express.

As a writer this collaboration, I believe that AI art is not a substitute for current art or an alternative. Through mutual coexistence, AI can stimulate the imagination of artists and present them with different tools. By providing artificial intelligence with deep learning on art, artists can contribute to the future society as it might completely revolutionize our lives. ” — Doomin (Pulse 9 ‘Imagine AI’ introduction)

In almost all of the Korean articles covering the collaboration between Doomin and ‘Imagine AI’, the recurring question was “Is AI a threat to artists?”. Even during the AI art gallery opening, serious discussions about where artificial intelligence places in the spectrum of creativity spurred among spectators.

In ‘Commune with…’, there is a grotesque division of time framed in the water below and land above: Doomin painted Dokdo’s vivacious greenery, whereas the AI drew detailed outlines of the island barren. But the truth is — every summer comes with a fall, every winter ends with a spring. Maybe many are also only choosing to see the cold surface of AI when it could lead to the most luscious future of the art industry. Artificial Intelligence excels at solving problems, and art is a solution computed by algorithms rife with human error and answers. So why are we so doubtful of AI’s potential to paint? Maybe the subject will be disputed for many years to come like Dokdo. However, the simple acceptance to observe the ups and downs of the AI art industry could be revolutionary.

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” — Marie Curie

Regardless of how contentious the public’s opinions get, it will always be an isolated island brimming with both hope and despair. Let us commune openly in spite of differences.

Jiwon Kim Jiwon is a Marketing and Event Specialist at Insider, a global AI-driven digital marketing solution startup. She is passionate about International Business Development, Strategy, and Data Visualization. Her previous work experiences include, Airbnb, and Boeing. Her passion projects include 1cupofmarketing and verse doodles on Instagram.

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