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HomeFeaturesEditorial: Art in Liverpool Issue #30, May 2023

Editorial: Art in Liverpool Issue #30, May 2023

Connecting to our surroundings is incredibly human. As is the ability to touch, feel, and make physical, tactile, things. When our understanding, skill, finance, or physical ability limits us in those pursuits, it’s frustrating.

This month’s issue didn’t set out thematically, but article submissions, along with the work filling the galleries of Merseyside this spring have meant that much of what we’ve got to say touched on the joy of existing.

Lady Lever’s Flower Fairies shares a beautifully accurate series of illustrations from the early 20th century illustrator Cicely Mary Barker, whose childhood limitations led to a lifelong obsession with botany, and some of the most iconic children’s illustrations ever published.

While Metal’s latest commission, 1.5 Degrees by Sweat the Small Stuff shares details of climate forecasts in very local settings, prompting discussion amongst commuters on the Northern Line into Liverpool over how hands on they are actually capable of being when it comes to fighting a climate emergency in their own back yard.

And a feature on CBS’s resident artist Will Pollock goes to show just how connected an artist can be with their materials, and how being driven by experiment and financial restrictions can positively benefit our work – as well as teaching others.

Stephen Clarke’s photographic exhibition at Ropes & Twines is the product of years of personal reflection over being an outsider in a space that should have felt like home, while Child Kumari Singh Burman’s installation at FACT is entirely focussed on supporting others, based on her own experiences of growing up in Bootle.

Experience, and the drive to support others, and teach others is uniquely human, and impossible to replicate. It’s a big part of what makes the art world tick, and how we can link themes between works from 1923 to work made in 2023.

Yet, having spent my own month travelling this city, and experiencing the worlds these artists have created and questions, I have also been exploring the confusing and complicated mind of ChatGPT, trying to settle my own anxieties of being replaced by artificial intelligence.

I doubt I’ve learned anything that will impact on your understanding of these AI tools, but I do think there’s a useful distinction between at least part of what defines art, literature, and other hands on experiences (like Cicely Mary Barker’s love of Botany), and the limitations of AI to actively understand the world around it.

If, for example, you ask it how to code a WordPress plugin, it’s surprisingly adept, because it is able to trawl the entire internet without any concept of time, providing well researched, and dated, but near flawless code. But ask it to tell you about its thoughts on making a living as an artist? That’s just not in its skill set. The answers are copied, pasted, and regurgitated out of lectures and guides on pricing vs risk.

There is nothing in this paper about AI, but it’s been so heavy on my mind this month, that I couldn’t help comparing its abilities with artists’, and it doesn’t half make me feel better about it all.