Art and literature have always been at the forefront of human creativity and self-expression. Whether it’s a painting, a poem, or a play, these forms of artistic expression have provided a window into the human experience and allowed us to explore and understand the world around us.
As arts practitioners, writers, and dramaturgs, we have a deep appreciation for the power of creativity and the role it plays in shaping our culture and society. But with the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) bots that can write plays and create art, there is a growing fear that the death of creativity is upon us.
The idea of machines creating works of art and literature is not new. For centuries, humans have been using technology to aid in the creation of art. From the printing press to the computer, technology has always played a role in the evolution of the arts. However, with the advent of AI, the stakes are higher than ever. AI bots are capable of writing plays and creating art that is indistinguishable from that created by humans. It is worth considering the potential merits and threats this technology might have for the arts industry and for young people’s exploration of creativity. This has led many to question the future of the arts and the role of humans in the creative process. Some argue that AI bots will eventually replace human artists and writers, leading to the death of creativity. After all, if machines can create works of art and literature that are just as good as, if not better than, those created by humans, then what is the point of human creativity?
The fear of the death of creativity is not unfounded. AI bots are already being used in the arts, and the results have been impressive. AI algorithms have been trained on vast datasets of existing works, allowing them to generate new works that are stylistically similar to those of human artists and writers. This has led some to argue that the future of the arts is in the hands of machines and that human creativity is no longer necessary. However, while the advancements in AI technology are impressive, it is important to remember that machines lack the human touch that is so essential to great art. AI bots may be able to mimic the style and structure of human works, but they lack the emotional depth and meaning that is the hallmark of great art. Without these elements, AI generated works may always fall short of truly great works of art and literature.
One of the most significant ethical concerns is the impact that AI technology will have on the employment of human artists and writers. If arts commissioners turn to AI generated writing and art instead of hiring human artists and writers, this will inevitably lead to a decrease in demand for human generated art and writing. This could result in a significant loss of livelihood for many artists and writers, who may find it difficult to find work in a highly competitive industry.
Another concern is that AI generated works could lead to the homogenization of art, as algorithms are trained on existing works and tend to produce outputs that are similar to what has already been created. This could stifle creativity and limit young people’s exposure to diverse perspectives and ideas.
Despite these concerns, it is worth noting that AI generated writing and artwork are still in their infancy, and there is a lot of room for growth and development. As technology continues to advance, it is likely that we will see AI generated works that are more sophisticated and nuanced, and that reflect a wider range of perspectives and experiences.
It could be argued that it is up to us as artists and writers to determine the role that AI will play in the arts industry. We can choose to embrace this technology and use it to create new works that challenge and inspire, or we can reject it and stick to traditional methods of creation. For young people, it is important to understand the power of creativity and the role it plays in shaping our culture and society. Whether they choose to use AI or not, it is essential that they continue to explore their creativity and find new and innovative ways to express themselves.
In conclusion, the death of creativity with the advent of AI bots is not inevitable. AI generated writing and artwork offer both exciting opportunities and significant challenges. As artists and writers, we must be vigilant about the ethical implications of the use of AI technology in the arts. While technology has the potential to augment human creativity, it should not be used to replace human artists and writers. Arts commissioners have a responsibility to support human artists and writers and to ensure that the arts remain a source of livelihood and creativity for all. The death of creativity with the advent of AI bots is not inevitable, but it is up to us to ensure that human creativity continues to thrive in a rapidly changing world.
~ This blog post was written by ChatGPT with questioning from Lauren
As the dates for teachers strikes were confirmed, and signs of industrial action began, I couldn’t help but be moved by some of the tweets from teachers about the complexity of the decision to strike.
The national narrative is about key workers demanding more / fair pay. The recent change in algorithms in Twitter seems to ensure I see the likes of Kelvin McKenzie and Sophie Corcoran’s tweets – posing questions about the validity of these decisions, whether it’s greed, whether they were actually ok because they were paid through lockdown and others weren’t. There is a simplistic narrative that these strikes are about greed.
Reading the narratives across Twitter made me reflect on my own experience of the education system since Bounce started 15 years ago. When we were setting out, art workshops were a popular sell in schools. Every Child Matters was on the national agenda and there was an extended schools infrastructure that meant children had places to go after school. There were collaborations with Sure Start Centres. There was an integrated effort to ensure children were healthy, safe, could make a positive contribution, enjoy and achieve economic well-being.
We actually built a lot of Bounce off the back of it. We were commissioned to deliver drama projects in schools which we grew into a community youth theatre. This enabled us to build new relationships with funders and housing associations, the military, early years services, other artists, and schools. Some of my happiest memories of the early years of Bounce were rocking up to an estate with a tiny community room and somehow packing it out with the loudest, most energetic group of young people I’d ever met. They went on to perform in theatres including Tara Arts, The Rose, and Soho Theatre.
Gove became Education Secretary under the coalition. Every Child Matters quietly disappeared. The funding for extended schools provision evaporated. The Department for Children, Schools and Families was renamed the Department for Education. There was a shift from wellbeing to academic achievement. I always remember running a workshop in a school in Barnes afterwards. I asked the children what made a good story. One enthusiastically put his hand up and said a certain number of adjectives and verbs. My creative heart wilted a little bit in sadness.
We stopped trying to sell workshops to schools after a while. They didn’t have the money. If they did have the money they also couldn’t justify enough to pay someone for a day. We are not a greedy company. We’ve never actually raised our prices in 15 years. So, when I say they didn’t have the money, they really didn’t. There has to be enough for freelancers to take home to spend on more than lunch, travel, tax, and NI contributions.
We do continue to work with schools, but we usually find the funding first. We also often buy our own materials. Teachers often look quite relieved that we just need scrap paper, scissors and a pencil, as budgets have shrivelled so much they didn’t have a lot of money for paint.
A teacher recently chatted to me about a new project. They made a comment about having to teach children knowledge rather than skills. It really resonated with me as some of our sessions have been hard lately. In one devising session, we abandoned the plot we had developed, as we were reliant on giving knowledge to make it. Instead we focused on character development, things that mattered to them and suddenly we had multidimensional stories born out of their own lived experiences and ideas. We could facilitate knowledge alongside their own lines of inquiry into storytelling.
So, when I think about the teachers’ strikes now, I don’t actually think about teachers asking for more pay (which they deserve). I think about the proposition for schools who have to find it from their own budgets. What then for the classrooms already in disrepair, the equitable access for children with additional needs, extra curricular activities and the little things like being able to experience painting a really nice picture? What happens to this in a system that has long been drained?
There is an excellent website here highlighting the cuts made to education over the last 12 years: School Cuts
I also think about well-being. Every Child Matters may have had its imperfections, but over the last 12 years we have seen a rising mental health need in our young people, who feel the stress and pressure of attainment.
A reset is needed for the health and well-being of our children – because every child does matter.
Jacinda Arden announced she was stepping down as PM this week. Like many others I felt a little bit heartbroken. During the pandemic, we hosted a podcast project for a group of girls. They made ‘The Female Voice’ during lockdown as a reflection on the impact the pandemic would have for women and girls around the world. Arden was constantly referred to as a role model – someone who could show that female leadership just meant compassion, kindness, and strength. At the time she was hosting conferences for young people whilst Boris Johnson was doing press ups for a photo op.
Like many others, I find myself admiring her grace in resignation. To acknowledge burnout and her own human-ness is another act of leadership. As in one way it starts a global conversation about mental health and the impact the last few years has had on all of us.
We feel it as practitioners and we see it in some of our participants. Children are quicker to cry or to run out of a session. Young people want to make work about depression and their own current lived experiences of feeling burnt out by pressure. Adults have sometimes cried in our sessions. We are, collectively, a little exhausted.
We have taken some small steps towards trying to mitigate the impact on ourselves in order to be better for our participants. We are trying to develop policies for wellbeing, guidance for our team, mentoring, and support so we can hear ourselves and each other through the weeks to mitigate the impact the work has on us. We have signed up to work with Wellbeing in the Arts so our team now gets a monthly session of clinical supervision. I get to be part of this – as a person – not as a producer of a project. I have already found it has had a transformative effect on my practice. It has given me permission to draw my own boundaries. I am aware of what I can do and also what I can’t.
When I was in my 20s I believed passionately that the act of making theatre might change the world. I wanted to articulate the debate about “process” and “product” why they were both relevant and still make banging theatre. I tired myself out trying to speak the lingo of the arts world to validate myself. The ENO is doing the rounds on Arts Twitter for being bold enough to negotiate £11.4 million pounds back from the Arts Council. It’ll keep its HQ in London whilst visiting a “whole bunch of places around Britain ” including the big cities and “then there’s going to be another set of places who don’t have much culture at all”. It’s good that they are “up for the challenge” because “it’ll be hard to get people who live and die for culture to move somewhere that has literally nothing…” Thankfully they have £11.4 million pounds to “relocate people and encourage them to move.”
Now, I’m older and I think also because I’m a mother, I’ve realised that I don’t want to fit into the mould of the aforementioned arts world. As the ENO is not alone in their perspective.
For me, art nurtures people’s hearts and it doesn’t need millions of pounds to do so. One of my favourite projects, Turn Up Join In, takes place at the Home Café in Earlsfield (SW18). We sit, we collage, tell stories, and eat together. It feels like the simplest but most profound act of self-compassion. In a world that never stops, it’s like a moment to be still and switch off. The collective act of eating together matters as much as the art. In our youth theatres we give young people spaces to debate big themes. We also give them biscuits, play games, and give them agency over the destination of their final piece. They have space to laugh, shrug off the pressures of school and to feel like they belong. They have space to ask questions and not be told the answers.
Those are the small radical acts of self-care that may one day change the world.