View Full Version : Digital art

10-20-2014, 10:43 PM
Some may be interested in this talk by Frieder Nake talking about the history of digital art. He is one of tghe pioneers of what he calls "algorithmic art." It's about 50 minutes long. He also talks about what he sees as the distinctions between the art in Germany in the 1960s (abstract expressionism) and the new computer art and teaching a computer to draw.



D Akey
10-21-2014, 10:04 AM
Some may be interested in this talk by Frieder Nake talking about the history of digital art. He is one of tghe pioneers of what he calls "algorithmic art." It's about 50 minutes long. He also talks about what he sees as the distinctions between the art in Germany in the 1960s (abstract expressionism) and the new computer art and teaching a computer to draw.



Interesting Brett. I may view the lecture in its entirety another time when I've got the time, but I'll comment on what I perceive to be the issue (having only skimmed and randomly picked out a few moments from the talk). So if I'm off topic or if he already said what I am about to say, sorry about that.

The fundamental question is whether machines can produce Art (capital A). His spin seemed to be on the programming of getting machines to behave intelligently. (Hope I'm in the ballpark.)

What I would say, off the top of my head, is that the answer is 'no'. The Art (capital A) of that is in the programming arts -- the programmer is the artist. 2 distinctly different definitions of art = 1) the noun, like a painting or drawing is called art much like photo copy got to be called a xerox, 2) the verb, doing something at the very highest level wherein it's not merely logic driven, where intuition and those intangibles and skill to some degree or other are brought in to make a human synthesis.

I'm thinking in terms of full autonomy of the machines much like a chess game playing machine where there are x number of old games it's using in gaming logic. I'm not referring to a situation in which someone is purposefully inputting variables and so forth where the machine becomes a tool, no matter how much or little they participate.

Sure a machine can kick out paintings and all that. But to me what it's kicking out is not Art because it does not have artfulness in the process, which is the human quality. Even if the machine was able to out-do what a man can do, in complexity, or taking things that have been done in the past, and re-synthesize it into something unique, it still is just following the programming to calculate in a certain way that is something that a human established.

Program into the algorithm a point in which it generates its own chaos, and even if you disguise that it was done without the human factor, you just end up with stuff or a thing. It may be extremely useful or very practical to have some machine that can do all that, can produce advertising art to sell Coca-Cola, can make the quality of life easier, or get a machine to find a way to kill a virus and all that, all incredibly sophisticated and even borderline magical seeming to those who don't understand the mechanics, but none of that automated processing qualifies to categorize it under the heading of Art, except at the places where humans are involved -- like I said, with the programmers and the humans that can artfully use that very sophisticated 'tool', etc.

A pseudo-Klee painting generated totally by a machine that's been programmed to convert something to a Klee look, even if it's totally new, never seen before, is not Art. But it is a piece of art. Real Art is something that communicates from the person who is doing it. Part of that artist is coming through with some intention of voice.

Much depends on what people value. I think answers will differ.

I really like the opening when he's talking about the early days of programming where the big corporations allowed and protected people to be "stupid". It's an essential component in humanity and evolution and thus in Art. Programming a bit of chaos into the mix for a thinking machine doesn't necessarily reflect what we've got going in our complex existences and our connection with all the other people out there with their various levels of chaos as well. And if machines can get to where they can't be distinguished from humans, so be it. But it still ain't Art. We would have to invent a different word because it would be a paradigm shifter.

If machines in some Sci-fi future become sentient and begin evolving with autonomy, it's the death knell for humanity because machines could obviously out-do us in all the survival ways, I would think.

Anyway, like I say, I'd like to watch it in its entirety. Thanks for the link, Bladerunner.

What do you think?

10-21-2014, 09:01 PM
Before ca 1700 there was no concept of art as we know it today.

The illusion that the modern ideals and practices of art are universal and eternal or at least go back to ancient Greece or the Renaissance has been easier to swallow thanks to an ambiguity in the word “art” itself. The English word “art” is derived from the Latin ars and Greek teckne, which meant any human skill whether horse breaking, verse writing, shoe-making, vase painting, or governing. The opposite of human art in that older way of thinking was not craft but nature. Some of the older sense of “art” lingers on in our use of the phrase “an art” for things such as medicine or cooking. But in the eighteenth century a fateful division occurred in the traditional concept of art. After over two thousand years of signifying any human activity performed with skill and grace, the concept of art was split apart, generating the new category fine arts (poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture, music) as opposed to crafts and popular arts (shoe-making, embroidery, storytelling, popular songs, etc.). The fine arts, it was now said, are a matter of inspiration and genius and meant to be enjoyed for themselves in moments of refined pleasure, whereas the crafts and popular arts require only skill and rules and are meant for mere use or entertainment. But this historic change of meaning became difficult to remember after nineteenth-century usage dropped the adjective “fine” and spoke only of art versus craft or art versus entertainment or art versus society. Today, when we ask, “Is it really art?” we no longer mean, «Is it a human rather than a natural product?” but “Does it belong in the prestigious category of (fine) art?”

... Before the eighteenth century, the terms “artist” and “artisan” were used interchangeably, and the word “artist” could be applied not only to painters and composers but also to shoemakers and wheelwrights, to alchemists and liberal arts students. There were neither artists nor artisans in the modern meaning of those terms, but only the artisan/artists who constructed their poems and paintings, watches and boots according to a techne or ars, an art/craft. But by the end of the eighteenth century, “artist” and “artisan” had become opposites; “artist” now meant the creator of works of fine art whereas “artisan” or “craftsman” meant the mere maker of something useful or entertaining.

...Instead of separate concert halls, most music accompanied religious worship, political ceremony or social recreation. Most artisan/artists worked on commissions from patrons whose contracts often specified content, form, and materials and envisaged a specific place and purpose for the finished piece. Even Leonardo da Vinci signed a contract for "Virgin of the Racks" that specified the contents, the color of the Virgin’s robe, the date of delivery, and a guarantee of repairs. Similarly, professional writers spent much of their time copying, note taking, and letter writing for their employers or churning out birthday poems, encomiums, and satirical attacks as required. Moreover, making art was usually a cooperative affair, with many minds and hands involved whether in painting frescoes (Raphael), in the multiple authorship of theater productions (Shakespeare), or in the free borrowing of melodies and harmonies among composers (Bach).

Quotes from the book: The invention of art.

In other words, we are watching an attempt at debasement/destruction of human creativity.

I cant post a web link but there is a 4 part lecture "The banishment of beauty" on youtube.

D Akey
10-22-2014, 03:03 AM
. . . In other words, we are watching an attempt at debasement/destruction of human creativity. I cant post a web link but there is a 4 part lecture "The banishment of beauty" on youtube.

Interesting video(s). Again, I could only get through a little less than half. It was repetitive enough that I think the point was made early on. And I'm going to run with a couple of the main points that were made. And my comments are merely to give food for thought and to continue the dialog. BTW, I love "The Painted Word" by Tom Wolfe. And the quote the film maker used was wonderful and true about with modern paintings their being merely illustrations for the words around the concepts.

1) It's rather more complex an issue than was being addressed. (ie. Aesthetics are gone except among artists who continue with the traditional representation of what is easier to naturally recognize as beautiful.) There are/were many, many things going on that created the "Modern Art" movement that had little or nothing to do with Art and aesthetics.

2) Selling the Modern Artist was the point, and it was about power and dominance, which is actually more of a core survival issue with people. It quickly became a situation where a market was established and the marketing people did what was necessary to build their business. . . and protect it. They bought up the works of relative nobodys for a song and parlayed it into vast wealth. And for those people out to make a ton of money, the rest was very complex smoke and mirrors sales pitching. And when other people saw that money was being made at it, they too jumped on the bandwagon. . . and so on like a pyramid scheme works, although the end point is not where somebody gets left holding the bag. The 'bag' actually has value at this point.

3) Many people who wanted to express in their own way had great resistance from those who were dominating and doling out taste. So they basically went reactive, and it had echos and it became its own thing, starting from defiance. Why do certain people act out and rebel? And when there's enough of that to become a movement, somebody jumps in to exploit that new cash cow. The original essence often becomes lost. People who were interested in the core point get pulled in, but alas their form gets overlaid with all the other associated agendas that they may not have been interested in, but their personal motives get out shouted by the people who are trying to build a market.

4) And at some point it branched out in different levels of appeal wherein some people went one way and others went another. And the 'rebellion' becomes it's own symbol not unlike music styles, much of which is about exerting independence as well as starting their own businesses based on people's interest in that. The participants get into "the look" as a comment, and sometimes an affirmation of a consciousness. So each style takes on a symbolic level. And that style can be packaged and sold. So you've got on one hand the participants and on the other the people who sell to them.

5) Why are there many diverse religions with all the apologists trying to convince people that theirs is the right one? Similar kind of situation. It pays on whatever level you're looking at. The commercial and power overlay cannot be minimized because it's a very primal pursuit to dominate large groups of people. And people who wrest this power can either be exploitative, or they can be enlightened. . . or both.

6) Because so much of all these social forms (Art, Religion, Businesses) became crass and self-aggrandizing, does that mean there's nothing deeper to it? Certainly there's real stuff at the heart of all these things. That's what draws people in. It just gets scrambled about by people with their personal agendas. And therein lies the real game, remaining true to one's own Truth in this maze of fun house mirrors. There are a lot of layers in humans each of which offers packages that approximate outwardly who they are inwardly. And Art is one of those things that melds the inner amorphous person with a pre-fab external package that people can then customize to taste.

The actual question should be, What does all this say about humans? It's been very interesting watching how Art has changed. It may have started out as rejects to some people, but it's now got a life of its own. I assure you, I'm not waving a flag, but it's not unlike how the United States came to be. Modern Art is strong now. But it's also super diverse. And there's plenty of room for traditional aesthetics. Museums are a whole other animal. And were you to show respectability for something that wouldn't ordinarily fit, you would seek to control the museums. And that's what they did. They even built their own museum, both as a monument to their kind of Art, not to mention their own influence on taste, and as a tax write off when all those paintings got so valuable they had to do something with their capital gains.

In aesthetics nothing is absolute. It's what people believe it to be.

10-22-2014, 06:45 PM
Thanks for mentioning those youtube vids, Artistodelic. Interesting comments on those vids as well.

Mediocrity is rife these days.

10-25-2014, 08:21 PM
Hi Mr Dakey

Thanks for your reply, as always intelligent and full of wit.

I posted the video mainly becuase the history interested me. I had not known the beginnings of digital art. I think Frieder Nake would agree with you about whether machines can creat Art. He says that what his machine did was "simulate" and that was not the same as "create". And he is happy to say that the art his machines made was boring - at least in the beginning. He was an engineer and interested in the way his engineering interfaced with humans. At least that's how I read him.

I very much agree with you over Scott Burdick's videos on aesthetics. I think the distinction he makes between realism and modernism is a straw dog. I have seen realist paintings that were very pretty to look at but that's all. If Art is only about making a beautiful technically excellent copy of what's "out there" who wants to be bothered really. I don't.

The battle that Scott Burdick describes is almost exactly the same battle fought between the Salon and the Impressionists, and that was brokered in large part by Mary Cassatt, who told her wealthy friends in the USA that Impressionism was the next big thing, and everybody made money out of that too.

And anyway anyone who dismisses La Guernica as some kind of fraud is just plain wrong. But that's just my opinion, of course :-)