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Yes, but is it art? - Rat Ramblings [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Nicodemus

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Yes, but is it art? [Feb. 7th, 2005|11:57 am]
Nicodemus
[Current Mood |complacentcomplacent]

Head over to this site, type in your name, and see what happens. That's how I produced the image below. (Note: the site is a bit slow, as it's still recovering from a slashdotting.)



It uses the google image search to create a collage of background images based on the word(s) entered. It then puts an op-art text overlay onto it in random styles and colors. Sometimes the results are pretty spiffy, sometimes they're completely uninteresting. (And how relevant the google images are to the subject is highly variable.)

It's still an interesting idea. It also raises the question: Can computers create art?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: twopiearr
2005-02-07 02:08 pm (UTC)
It also raises the question: Can computers create art?

I suppose it depends in large part on how one defines art.

Most museums and galleries that I've ever been to seem to feel that art is a conscious choice on the part of the artist - strokes are not just applied randomly, but for a reason, even if the stroke itself is random (e.g. Jackson Pollock). Under that definition, the typo generator isn't creating art, it's simply running random inputs through specific algorhytms predetermined by a human. In this case the artist is the programmer who wrote the code, not the computer.

Thought experiment: let's say I set five buckets of paint over a canvas. They're closed. Then I device a machine with 3 layers of turntables. Layer 1, closest to the buckets, contains several reservoirs; layer 2 contains several funnels; and layer 3 contains several seives of varying density and size (cheese graters, sackcloth, etc). Now suppose I've got a motor driving all 3, and also controlling trap doors on the paint buckets. Said motor is attached via USB to a computer.

For the installation, I set all of this up and allow people to play with the controls on the computer, opening the trap doors and spinning the turntables essentially randomly, dumping sort of modified, glorified spinart onto the waiting canvas.

Who created the resulting artwork?
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2005-02-07 02:57 pm (UTC)
Is the person who built the brush an artist or merely the person who wields it?


In response to the first portion, I would agree that the artist is the programmer. My definition of the boundary condition is that the computer program may be non-deterministic (or non-trivially predictable) in its behavior. But, ultimately, the boundaries and domain within which it operates is fixed. The art program cannot expand its repetoire; only the programmer can do that.

Following that line of reasoning, the boundary condition would be AI programs with true introspection (in the programming sense) and learning.
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[User Picture]From: zero_wolfe
2005-02-07 05:11 pm (UTC)
Wow, that's a really neat site. Thanks for sharing. :)
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[User Picture]From: loranskunky
2005-02-07 11:34 pm (UTC)

Is it art?

I learned once from an art teacher that "art that has no meaning means something" and what he meant was that was is art is defined by what anyone calls art. Even if you don't agree with it, it's art because someone has said it is. When they started painting words on the walls of museums, they had torn down the meaning of images to it's basic form, that of a word. Putting up a blank wall and calling it art is art because it makes you think about if it's art or art and that is sometimes the art.

My art teacher also says, "the written lanuage is a translatable form of abstract art."

As you read this, your brain is taking the images and applying meaning to those images and making sense out of them. When I write the word 'cat' on a piece of paper (or even in this journal) I doubt that anyone is thinking the same 'cat' as the person next to them. Write 'cat' in Japanese and most people just see it as a seris of strokes, but it still means 'cat' in Japanese.

Can a computer make art? Yes, why not. But remeber, someone had to program it and I do consider programmers to create code that is 'beautiful".
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From: farallon
2005-02-08 10:08 am (UTC)
Can computers create art? Well, until a computer designs a computer or program all by itself to create art without being told too, then no.

As others have pointed out, the paintbrush does not create art, the person weilding it does. So in this cse, the programmer is the artist, though in the 5 tries that I iterated through on that site, nothing was even remotely interesting so maybe the programmer really wasn't that great of an artist.

By comparison, look at some of the music player visualizations like Milk Drop or G-Force. I think you could say that those really do approach artistic levels. But of course it was the progammer that created the art, the computer is just a fancy-pants paintbrush.

This is the same discussion that happened in the electronic music scene in the 60s with bands like Pink Floyd. They were accused a lot of letting the machines make the music and that they really weren't musicians. Seems rediculous now, except, here we are talking baout the same thing WRT to computers!
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