AI AND AB (ARTIST BOOKS) // Peter Tanner

15 Apr 2024 11:19 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

Recently I have been fascinated to learn more about how to use AI for teaching purposes. I have found it to be a great resource, always disclosing to my students that I am using it so that they use similar best practices and cite its use. To demonstrate some of what AI can do I asked ChatGPT a few questions. It is interesting to see its answers and how they represent ways that the information we share with AI influences the results it can provide. For clarity’s sake all the questions below are from myself and all the answers in all their redundant glory were generated by the ChatGPT’s AI.


Peter Tanner Question (PT Question): What is ChatGPT and what can it do?

ChatGPT AI Answer: ChatGPT is a conversational AI model developed by OpenAI, based on the GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) architecture. It's designed to generate human-like text based on the input it receives. ChatGPT is trained on a vast amount of text data from the internet, allowing it to understand and generate responses across a wide range of topics and contexts.

Here are some of the things ChatGPT can do:

1. Answer Questions: ChatGPT can provide information and answer questions on a wide variety of topics, drawing from its extensive training data.

2. Engage in Conversation: ChatGPT can engage in text-based conversation, responding to prompts and interacting with users in a manner similar to human conversation.

3. Generate Text: Whether it's writing stories, poems, articles, or even code snippets, ChatGPT can generate text in a coherent and contextually relevant manner.

4. Assist with Writing: ChatGPT can help with writing tasks by suggesting ideas, providing feedback, or generating content based on specific prompts or requirements.

5. Language Translation: While not perfect, ChatGPT can assist with language translation tasks by converting text from one language to another.

6. Creative Exploration: ChatGPT can be used for creative exploration, generating ideas, brainstorming, or providing inspiration for artistic or design projects.

Overall, ChatGPT is a versatile tool that can assist with a wide range of tasks involving natural language processing and generation. However, it's important to keep in mind that while ChatGPT can produce human-like text, it doesn't have understanding or consciousness like a human does. 


PT Question: What is an artist book?

ChatGPT AI Answer: An artist's book is a medium of artistic expression that uses the book format as its primary means of presentation. Unlike traditional books, which focus primarily on conveying written content, artist's books emphasize the visual and tactile experience of the book object itself. They can take many forms, including handmade books, altered books, unique or limited-edition works, and even sculptural or multimedia creations.

Artist's books often blur the boundaries between visual art, literature, and design. They can incorporate a wide range of materials, such as paper, fabric, metal, wood, and found objects. Artists may use various techniques such as painting, printmaking, collage, photography, and typography to create their books. 

The content of artist's books can vary widely, ranging from narrative storytelling to abstract expressionism to political commentary. Some artist's books explore themes of identity, memory, or social justice, while others experiment with the structure and format of the book itself. 

Overall, artist's books offer a unique and immersive artistic experience that engages the viewer on multiple levels, challenging conventional notions of what a book can be.


PT Question: Can AI help create artist books?

ChatGPT AI Answer: Yes, AI can certainly play a role in the creation of artist's books, either directly or indirectly. Here's how:

1. Content Generation: AI can be used to generate written content for artist's books. For example, a language model like GPT-3 could be prompted with themes, ideas, or specific text passages to generate narratives, poetry, or other textual elements that can be incorporated into the book.

2. Design Assistance: AI tools can assist artists in designing the layout and visual elements of their books. For instance, software programs equipped with AI algorithms can help with layout composition, image editing, and typography selection, ensuring a visually appealing and cohesive design.

3. Collaborative Creation: AI can facilitate collaborative creation processes between artists and machines. Artists can interact with AI models to explore new ideas, experiment with different styles, or generate content collaboratively, leading to innovative and unexpected outcomes.

4. Automated Production: AI-driven automation technologies can streamline the production process of artist's books by handling repetitive tasks such as image processing, text layout, and even physical bookbinding in some cases, allowing artists to focus more on the creative aspects of their work.

5. Inspiration and Exploration: AI can serve as a source of inspiration and exploration for artists, providing access to vast amounts of data, images, texts, and other resources that can spark creativity and inform the conceptualization and execution of artist's books.

While AI can provide valuable assistance in various aspects of creating artist's books, it's important to recognize that human creativity, intuition, and artistic sensibility remain essential throughout the creative process. AI should be viewed as a tool to augment and enhance human creativity rather than replace it entirely. Ultimately, the synergy between human and machine capabilities can lead to exciting and innovative outcomes in the realm of artist's books.


PT Question: What are key artist books from United States? 

ChatGPT AI Answer: The United States has a vibrant tradition of artist's books, with numerous influential works that have contributed to the development of the medium. Here are some key examples:

1. "The Birds" by Edward Ruscha: Published in 1972, "The Birds" is a seminal work by American artist Edward Ruscha. It features black-and-white photographs of various species of birds, accompanied by simple, descriptive text. Ruscha's use of photography and text in a minimalist format has had a profound influence on the genre of artist's books.

2. "A Humument" by Tom Phillips: Tom Phillips' "A Humument" is an ongoing project that involves altering and reinterpreting the pages of a Victorian novel, "A Human Document" by W.H. Mallock. Phillips paints, collages, and obscures the original text, creating a new narrative and visual experience. The project blurs the boundaries between literature and visual art and has inspired generations of artists.

3. "Diary of a Victorian Dandy" by Duane Michals: This artist's book by Duane Michals combines photography and handwritten text to create a fictional narrative about the life of a Victorian-era dandy. Michals' innovative use of sequencing and storytelling techniques has made "Diary of a Victorian Dandy" a landmark work in the genre.

4. "Seven American Deaths and Disasters" by Kenneth Goldsmith: Published in 2013, "Seven American Deaths and Disasters" is a provocative artist's book by conceptual poet Kenneth Goldsmith. It consists of transcriptions of radio and television broadcasts related to seven iconic American tragedies, including the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the September 11 attacks. Goldsmith's appropriation and recontextualization of media texts raise questions about representation, memory, and collective trauma.

5. "House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielewski: While not strictly an artist's book, "House of Leaves" is a groundbreaking novel that incorporates innovative typographic design and unconventional page layouts to create a complex and immersive reading experience. Mark Z. Danielewski's experimental approach to storytelling challenges traditional notions of narrative structure and has inspired artists and writers alike.

These are just a few examples of the diverse and influential artist's books that have emerged from the United States. They demonstrate the country's rich artistic heritage and its ongoing contributions to the field of book arts.


PT Question: What was the first artist book?

ChatGPT AI Answer: Pinpointing the "first" artist's book can be challenging due to the broad and evolving definition of the genre and the long history of artists experimenting with book formats. However, one early example often cited as a precursor to the modern artist's book is the "Hypnerotomachia Poliphili," published in 1499.

The "Hypnerotomachia Poliphili" is a Renaissance-era book that combines text with lavish woodcut illustrations. It tells the story of a protagonist, Poliphilo, on a dreamlike journey through a landscape filled with classical architecture, mythological figures, and erotic encounters. The book's intricate design and integration of text and image make it a landmark work in the history of book arts.

While not a contemporary artist's book in the modern sense, the "Hypnerotomachia Poliphili" exemplifies many characteristics of the genre, including the integration of visual and textual elements, the exploration of unconventional narrative structures, and the use of the book format as a vehicle for artistic expression. It has inspired generations of artists and designers and continues to be celebrated for its beauty and innovation.


PT Comment: All the previous answers were generated by the ChatGPT AI. For many of you and myself, the repetition that we read can be grating, but that is important to note because it separates us from the AI. But also think about what these answers represent: An AI provided the definition of the artist book. That represents a non-research-based consensus found on the internet. It created a list of the most important books in the history of artist books in the United States, but it did not choose Twenty-six Gas Stations, which may perturb many readers. What should be readily apparent is that while there are vast amounts of information available for AI to use, there is a great deal of serious academic research that is not available for access by either AI or Google’s search engines. AI can only present us with an amalgam of the data that we have fed to it. The adage “garbage in garbage out” comes to mind. AI can generate many types of information. However, as humans and specialists in our fields we are the content authorities. The metadata is a proxy, not “the” thing.


PT Question: Who is Peter Tanner?

ChatGPT AI Answer: As of my last update in January 2022, I don't have specific information about an individual named Peter Tanner who is widely known or recognized. It's possible that Peter Tanner could be a private individual, a professional in a specialized field, or someone who has gained prominence after that time. If Peter Tanner is associated with a particular field or area of expertise, providing more context could help in providing relevant information. 

Peter Tanner teaches Spanish Language and Literature at Utah State University and is Editor of Openings: Studies in Book Art. He has a Ph.D. in Latin American literature, an MA in Latin American Art History, and a BFA in Painting and Printmaking. His research focuses on artist books from Latin America.


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