Poster commotion: AI takes centre stage  

By Cameron Walker

A quick note: Do not shoot the messenger! This article aims to discuss a variety of perspectives on generative AI, and does not inherently reflect the personal opinions or decisions of individuals on our executive team. 

What if I told you that this article was generated by ChatGPT? 

You would likely stop reading, right? Possibly send the Glass Editors a strongly worded email? Sure thing, but what if we changed the phrasing? 

This article was rewritten by ChatGPT, based on a draft I had already typed up. 

Are the negative implications associated with my previous statement diminished by the knowledge that there has been substantial human creative input? 

Although this article was NOT written by ChatGPT (I promise), Vena Cava Productions recently posed this very question to its own community. 

The Vera Watson Wellness Centre, written by Tony Brumpton, and co-directed with Shari Indriani Irwin, is the company’s second main stage production of 2024. The play, as described by the author, “explores human interaction with A.I both on and off the stage,” splicing sci-fi, horror, comedy, and philosophy into a show you cannot unknow. 

Appreciating that the creative forces behind the production wished to make a bold statement, ask tough questions, and challenge its audiences, the Vena Cava team understood these goals needed to be established early in the show’s marketing. After months of careful deliberation, both parties agreed that, to stand out amongst a crowded digital environment whilst also incorporating the play’s thematic motifs, Vena Cava would need to take a calculated risk… and incorporate AI into its MH2 poster. *cue the dramatic music* 

Our motto: Generative AI is not going away anytime soon, so let us tackle it head on. 

Brisbane’s theatrical landscape is no stranger to an AI controversy. Over the last few years, several notable theatre companies have occasionally employed AI material to promote their shows, some of which have received online backlash, whilst others have gone under the radar. Given this topic’s history, it was important for Vena Cava to approach this concept with nuance, purpose and clarity, whilst understanding that the approach would be received with mixed emotions. 

We established four simple rules: 

  1. Maintain a degree of human artistry in the development of the poster. 
  1. Uphold full transparency on AI’s implementation. 
  1. Guarantee that this use of generative AI would be a ‘one off’ occurrence. 
  1. Encourage all and any constructive discourse within the community. 

Tony Brumpton described the final process: “For our marketing, a photographer and designer [Lani Dwyer] photographed [three] human models. The images were then filtered using an A.I text prompt. And the results are… uncanny.”  

Dwyer herself then continued, “While AI provided valuable assistance, the project’s success relied on human creativity and skills. This highlights a collaborative approach, where AI augments human capabilities rather than replacing them.” 

Considering this methodology, let us recontextualize the original framing statement: Are the negative implications of AI generated imagery diminished by the knowledge that there was significant artistic input involved in the development process? We’re about to find out. 

The ensuing comments were left by our followers on Instagram (@venacavaproductions) after the AI-filtered pictures were posted: 

On job opportunities: “A theatre company of all things really shouldn’t be engaging in this. I’m sure many artists at the uni would have relished the opportunity to design a great poster for you.” 

On the ethical misuse of existing art: “I understand the point of filtering [the photograph] through AI, but it would have been fruitful to have an artist paint over the image in the way of AI instead of feeding programs that steal work.” 

On creative concerns: “There are definitely creative ways of approaching AI as a concept without actually using it in a literal way.” 

Based on these comments alone, opinion has not shifted. These concerns, shared by a significant percentage of creative industry students, suggest that the use of generative AI is unacceptable, regardless of any human creative input. 

Overall, what did Vena Cava’s marketing accomplish? If anything, we sparked a conversation. Although we anticipated the pushing of a couple angry buttons, we did not predict that Vera Watson’s poster would become our most reshared piece of marketing, reaching over three thousand users within six days of its upload. If our poster initiated a discussion online, a debate amongst your friends, or even encouraged you to be more vigilant of other AI material, then our strategy succeeded. 

What should be the primary takeaway from this discussion? Despite taking steps to avoid perpetuating the same conduct we aimed to criticize, the current outcry against generative AI integration drowns out most opportunities for a more nuanced discussion. Our followers, online and in-person, have demonstrated that human art will, for the near future, remain of higher personal value. And, frankly, that is an encouraging takeaway. We are a theatre company at the end of the day. 

As one motivated follower wrote on their story in response to our poster, “art without soul is meaningless.” We agree! 

The conversation does not end here. If you would like to know more, we encourage you to catch The Vera Watson Wellness Centre, performing July 10 to 13th at Kelvin Grove, for an ominously artificial look into the future. 

Lastly, If you would like to support the creative talent behind this work, you can follow photographer and vision designer @laniiadwyer on Instagram, who’s work, like all creatives, is irreplaceable.

Cameron Joseph Walker is not a genius, billionaire, playboy, or philanthropist. He’s just a Brisbane-based actor studying at QUT, who also happens to be the Social Media Manager for Vena Cava Productions. You can follow his work @cameron_joseph_walker on Instagram.


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