“This evening, we are starting the bidding off at $12,000. Can I get $12,000? You there, yes. Now can I get $14,000?”
A man in the back of the auction room raised his hand.
“Woah, that was a significant jump, $32,000?!”
“$32,000 going once, going twice?” the auctioneer paused. No one else raised their hands.
“Sold!” his voice rang out through the room.
$32,000? That’s the highest anyone has ever been willing to pay for one of my paintings. Especially one that I had to create on my own. I was behind the curtain on stage, so I could easily hear how loud they were. My artwork was the last showing. By then, everyone had paid for the pieces they won, but there was more, a surprise.
“May I have your attention please, tonight we decided to give you all a special treat. It was time to introduce the creator of this fine masterpiece and many others. For those of you who have been attending these auctions, the name of this painting’s creator may ring a bell, especially those of you who have bought their work. However none of you have gotten the opportunity to meet this esteemed artist in– let’s just say the flesh,” he chuckled.
“Now to meet the creator of this and many other beautiful masterpieces!”
That was my cue to enter the room. They don’t usually do this, bringing the artist on stage, but let’s just say I’m an unusual case.
“Let us welcome, Ember!” The auctioneer raved, showing all his teeth. The crowd started to murmur amongst themselves.
“Ember? I never heard of them, must be a recent upstart.”
“Well, this is only your second time attending, so it makes sense that you haven’t heard of them.”
My eyes automatically adjusted to the brightness of the lights. There was a collective gasp when I got to the middle of the stage. After that, the room was almost silent. Only the soft hum of my motherboard was audible.
“HA! You can’t be serious. Is this some kind of joke? A robot? Made this painting?” The man sneered. He stomped his foot. His grave voice rang throughout the room.
“Don’t make me laugh. There’s no way in hell I’m forking up 32 grand for a canvas a tin can splashed paint on!”
The man was enraged, maybe rightfully so, or he didn’t understand art when he saw it.
“Well, if you’re not going to keep it, I will happily take it off your hands,”
Another voice spoke up in a bored yet mocking tone. The person sounded younger than the one before.
“Only a fool would complain about how this art works like this, but no matter if it’s off your hands.”
“Tch, what would a nobody brat like you know,” he stalked closer to the younger man sitting in his chair and peered down at him with the intent to be intimidating. The young man wasn’t fazed in the slightest.
“Mmhm as a student of Mundi Athaliah, an esteemed appraiser, it’d be kind of embarrassing if I didn’t know anything about art don’t you think?”
“The name’s Gray LeClair. Do well to remember it, ya?” He glared up at the angry man standing above him.
It was nice to know that someone actually appreciated my AI-generated artwork. Some just buy it because they can, because they want to show off.
“Now, to introduce the owner of this exquisite machine.”
Calling this person my owner is a bit of a stretch, but it fits since she stole me away from my creator. She walked up on stage, introducing herself as if she really needed any introduction. Her name is Vera Alexander. She was a woman in her late 30s. She stood tall and proud of all the work she had accomplished so far in her life. Never mind whatever underhanded methods she used, however many people she had to hurt. Vera didn’t care as long as she accomplished her goal. She smiled at the audience.
“It is a fine machine, needed a bit of re-programming but works just fine now. It’s amazing what you can get computers to do.”
She continued to talk about my software as if she was the one that put me together. All she did was change my coding so I would follow her commands instead of my creators. As a result, I can do nothing except stand here and listen to her order. It’s been exactly four years, three months, seven weeks, and 82 days since I’ve been under Vera’s control. The amount of tasks she has me complete is enough for me to shut down from overheating. On many occasions, it has, not that she cares. Instead, she’d yell and tell her assistants to fix the problem, and the cycle continued day after day. A round of questions goes on about how I function, where Vera found me, is she was the one that made me, all of which she lied about.
“Can it feel emotions? Someone from the crowd shouts out. Vera laughs. It’s short and mocking as if the thought of me having emotions was an impossible concept—as if it’s completely unheard of.
“Of course not, it’s an android, an AI. It’s not meant to have emotions like us humans. If I wanted something that had emotions I would have just had a human child or hired someone.”
That was enough to satisfy people’s curiosity. With everyone’s questions answered, the event was over. People were making their way outside the room, yet one figure stood at the back of the room. It was like they were watching, analyzing Vera and me. I zoomed in closer and realized it was Gray. He was frowning at us, strange. Vera walked off, and naturally, (can you say that as an android?). I followed, my body clanking as I walked.
“Come Ember we have a lot to do.”
As soon as we left the auction room, she immediately sent me to the lab to update my code. She plans on having me forge a painting, and the only way for that to work is if I know how the original artwork looks. Technically all of my works are forgery, but that’s only because I use references to guide me until I learn what’s passable for a specific artwork and until my internal authenticator can’t tell the difference between my work and humans. Basically, they have to program to identify an object of their choosing. For example, if they want me to draw a flower, they would have references for flowers that my software can use as a guide. They keep adjusting it, and I continue learning until what I create is realistic enough to be a flower that looks like it was drawn by a human. Once it’s approved, it’s transferred to a canvas. In other words, I am an art generator that’s able to physically paint. It’s just another day at work. I get wired up to a computer, and the computer programmer starts working on creating a code that I will be able to understand. The process usually takes about a week, but they can do it under Vera’s watchful eye in less than three days.
“Make sure it’s up and running by the time I get back from my trip. I want it working on the painting by then.”
Her assistant glanced at her worriedly. “Shouldn’t you be worried about getting caught, by I don’t know a trained appraiser?”
“I have nothing to worry about those fools who claim to be trained, but I’ve seen them in action. They wouldn’t know the original if it hit me in the face.”
“But you’re selling something that you’re claiming is an original Yvonne Lévesque, the brush work on that is very hard to replicate,” I add weakly.
“Shut up bot, who asked you to speak? Cause I sure as hell didn’t.” she snarled.
After that, I didn’t say anything anymore, it was not the first time she had me replicate a painting, but it was the first time I had to copy one by a well-known artist. The portrait has to come out almost the same, if not precisely the same, or I’ll be turned into recycled parts.
It was the night to showcase the painting I forged; the exhibit was being held in another room of Vera’s extensive mansion.Vera had everything set up in her gallery room. A smirk was placed on her face; she looked relaxed without a care in the world. The room was well lit and filled with soft-colored decorations hanging from the ceiling. Various paintings and photographs were lining the wall. It looked elegant. The guest’s faces brightened with amazement upon entering. When their eyes drifted to the center of the room, they stood in awe. The fake was displayed on a large canvas and an equally large easel at the center. Vera stood off to the side with a microphone in hand.
“I’d like to welcome everyone this evening to this lovely exhibit. I’m glad all of you could join.”
“Tonight, I would like to present to you the portrait “Lost in Time” created byYvonne Lévesque. I was fortunate enough that my android recovered it while out on an errand.” The comment was offhanded and a lie, a bold one at that. Drawing their attention away from how she acquired the painting, she went into detail about the artwork. There two appraisers present. Scrutinizing the canvas, faces laced with suspicion, as they usually are anytime someone claims to have found an original piece. If they find out the truth, I’m done for. Vera looks as confident as ever.
“Please feel free to admire the artwork and photography.”
The appraisers immediately walked to the canvas for closure observation. I could tell that Vera was starting to get a bit nervous. Her face was set in a frown, and she began to bite her thumbnail. However, as fast as the reaction came, it was gone. She carried an air of confidence, approaching the appraisers with a smile. But, unfortunately, it didn’t reach her eyes.
“So what do you think is beautiful isn’t it?”
“Yes, indeed, it was well crafted, from the paint used down to the brushstroke, it’s almost perfect.” The first appraiser spoke up; she was an older woman, and beside her stood a young man, probably her student.
“I agree it’s almost perfect, hard to tell if it was done by the original artist or an imposter.” The man’s voice sounded vaguely familiar.
“What do you mean? I don’t think I follow, this was created by Yvonne Lévesque was it not?”
“To an untrained eye, it would appear that way, but we are not amatuer appraisers.”
“Are you implying that this painting was forged? That’s absurd. Who–”
The older woman cut her off, scowling, “Precisely and as for who, well, I’m sure we can all assume it was by you, more like that lovely robot of yours.”
“You can’t seriously think that I had anything to do with this, let alone have a machine forge a painting from a famous artist.”
“Too bad we know it’s a fake, you know it’s a fake, save us the time and energy please. The police will be here shortly.”
Gray turned towards me. “Hey Android, I’m here to get you out of this place.”
“What, why? Why would you do something like that?” I was confused. What does this person have to gain from helping me escape Vera?
“What’s in it for you, what you want to make money off of me too, don’t you. And I have. a. name.” I can’t show much emotion, but I hope they realize that I’m glaring at them. Unfortunately for me, it seems like all the humans I run into are all the same. They just want to profit.
“Would you stop speculating and analyzing your bucket of bolts, no one here to put you back in the same situation you’re in now, Ember.”
“Y-you know my name?” strange, I wasn’t expecting some random person to know about me.
“Of course, I know your name. I got one of your paintings, plus by now, the whole country probably knows your name after your recent exhibition.”
“The android that can forge any painting they desire”
“Oh, that was you! G-Gray, right?”
“Yes, now first I have to override the coding Vera gave you and input a new one so you won’t have to listen to that ridiculous woman.”
“Wait, wait you can’t do that, won’t I be destroyed?”
“No Ember you won’t, I may be an appraiser but I know what I’m doing, I have experience with artificial intelligence like you, I know we don’t know each other but just trust me a little.”
I walk towards Gray, my body clanking loudly throughout the room.
“Okay but if you’re anything like Vera I’ll find a way to erase you. I don’t want to go through the same thing again”
Gray smiles, “You got it, metal man.”
The End… For now.
Wallace, Benedikte. What Happens When Art Meets AI? | TEDx Talks, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7bfTHRDgsc Accessed 6 March. 2022.
This story is about an AI getting rescued from an organization that wants to use it for
their own gain. Instead of allowing the AI to create masterpieces on its own, it is forced to follow guidelines set by the head of the organization. Wallace states, “by me never encouraging my computer to do things differently, I might be forcing it into this mediocrity.” Wallace explains that she does not want to have the computer “imitate” anything because it is seemingly forced to be uncreative. This connects to my story because Ember is being forced to create pieces of art that they do not want to create.
Hochelaga, An Artificial Intelligence Made This Painting, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFkFf6Zu8i4 . Accessed 6 March 2022.
This video shows how much money artwork created by an AI is sold for. It explains that there is an algorithm created and that the ai takes various examples of an image or object to create it work.
Oda, Eiichiro. One Piece. Shueisha, 1997.
Ember is based on Usopp from the anime One Piece. Similar to Usopp, Ember is a bit of a coward but very loyal. When the time calls for it, Ember has moments of bravery. In human years Ember could be considered to be at least 20 years old. In terms of creation, about two years. I chose this character archetype because, even though Ember hates the situation they’re in they feel helpless. They try everything they can to get out but nothing seems to work, so they have to rely on others.
Le Château de Lumière, located in georgetown Pike, Great Falls VA https://www.sothebysrealty.com/eng/sales/detail/180-l-905-gh2dm9/chateau-de-lumiere-great-falls-va-22066
The setting of the story takes place in a mansion. I based the mansion on Le Chateau de Lumière. Most of the scenes in the story will happen inside of the mansion. This is fitting for a story where escaping is involved. There will be a room big enough for an art exhibit. In the basement there will be a lab where Ember gets reprogrammed and any updates the organizations see fit.